Month: December 2015

“If you want peace, work for justice”: Candlelit vigil marks the 15th anniversary of the Titanic Express massacre

On December 28th 2015 a group of around 40 people from Burundi, Rwanda, Congo and the UK came together in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark the 15th anniversary of the Titanic Express massacre.

Campaigners lit candles, laid flowers and held placards beside the Burundian Embassy in London’s Trafalgar Square. They also took part in a campaign action led by Amnesty International to highlight the killings that have taken place in Burundi this year. The vigil was supported by a choir from the UK Congolese Banyamulenge community who sang a number of songs at the event.

Speakers included Lionelle Kingsley-Bio from the UK Burundian Diaspora Association, Rona Keen from Amnesty International, Alexis Shama, of the UK Banyamulenge Community Association, and Margot Wilson, mother of Charlotte Wilson, the only British victim of the Titanic Express massacre.

The vigil organisers also delivered a letter to the Burundian Ambassador to the UK calling for justice over the Titanic Express attack, and an end to the ongoing violence.

To find out more about the Alliance For Justice, click here, or click here to join our mailing list.

Titanic Express vigil, 3pm December 28th, Trafalgar Square, London – final details for those attending

December 28th - large

A massive thankyou in advance to those of you who are coming along to support our candlelit vigil in Trafalgar Square at 3pm on December 28th.

We have confirmed speakers from Amnesty International, the UK Burundian Diaspora Association and the UK Banyamulenge community, and we know that a number of people are coming down from Manchester, Coventry and elsewhere to take part in the event. 

We’re hugely encouraged that so many people are taking the trouble to join us to remember our loved ones – and call for an end to the ongoing violence – during what we know is a tricky time of year.

1. Meeting place and time

We will be gathering from 3pm, as close as possible to the Burundian Embassy in Trafalgar Square – click here for a map of the precise location.

2. Key things to bring

*During the event we will be creating a ‘wall of names’ to remember individual victims of the Titanic Express attack and the more recent violence. If you would like to commemorate a particular person we would encourage you to bring a photograph, or a sign bearing their name. We will also be providing some blank A2 cards and pens, so there will be an opportunity to make some signs on the day.

*We are keen to gather good photographs and video of the event, so please do bring a camera if you might be able to help with that.

*We will be using glass jars as candle holders – if you have any spare, please do bring them along!

*Finally, the event will be taking place outside on one of the coldest days of the year so please bring extra layers and wrap up warm!

3. Media coverage

We have been circulating a press release about the vigil, and there will be media present at the event. If you would like to receive a copy of the press release, or arrange an interview, please contact Richard Wilson on +44 (0)7969 802 830 / richardcameronwilson AT yahoo DOT co DOT UK.

4. In the meantime please spread the word – hashtag #TitanicExpress

We’re encouraging people to spread the word on social media before, during and after the vigil using the hashtag #TitanicExpress.

Thanks again for supporting the Alliance for Justice and have a wonderful Christmas!

15 years on from the Titanic Express massacre, the cycle of violence continues

At 3pm on December 28th this year, activists will gather in London’s Trafalgar Square to remember the 21 people dragged from their bus and killed, in the hills above Bujumbura, a few days after Christmas 2000.

The passengers were ordinary men, women and children travelling from Rwanda to the Burundian capital Bujumbura. Many were on their way to celebrate the New Year with friends and family.

The killers were members of Palipehutu-FNL, driven by the same extremist ideology used to justify the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Hutu passengers were released unharmed. Those deemed to be Tutsi were robbed, stripped, forced to lie face down on the ground, and shot. One of the last passengers to leave was told to tell the authorities “We’re going to kill them all and there’s nothing you can do”.

The Titanic Express attack was part of a vicious cycle of massacre and reprisal in a 12-year civil war that claimed over 300,000 lives. When that war finally ended in 2005, there was a widespread recognition that justice must be done for past atrocities to prevent a recurrence of violence in future.

With this in mind, the UN passed a resolution envisaging: “a mixed Truth Commission and a Special Chamber… to prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”.

Tragically, this promise was never delivered. Those who had instigated mass-killings were instead rewarded with positions of power and immunity from prosecution.

Even as Burundi’s government became increasingly violent and authoritarian, the country continued to be hailed as a peacebuilding “success story”. One of Burundi’s largest aid donors, the European Union, actually increased its financial contributions while exerting little serious pressure for progress on the issue of justice.

Fifteen years on from the Titanic Express attack, dozens of families are again mourning a brutal mass-killing in Burundi.

On December 11th, Burundian security forces went house-to-house through two districts deemed to be strongholds of the political opposition, and arrested hundreds of young men. Hours later, dozens of bullet-ridden bodies were dumped on the streets, many with their hands tied behind their backs. At least 79 young people are believed to have been killed. The massacre appears to have been a revenge attack for an assault on a number of military positions in Bujumbura, in which 8 soldiers were reportedly killed.

Like the victims of the Titanic Express massacre, those rounded up and killed last week died simply because of what they represented to their killers – and because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At our vigil for the victims of the Titanic Express massacre we will also be remembering those who died last week – and the many others killed in Burundi this year.

It will inevitably be a sad occasion – but the candles we light will also represent hope – hope that with sufficient international pressure, those responsible for mass-murder in Burundi may finally be held to account, and the cycle of violence ended.