Author: Richard Wilson

Honouring the victims of Gatumba – Saturday August 13th 2016

Event: UK commemoration of the August 2004 Gatumba massacre
Time: 12pm, Saturday August 13th 2016
Place: Cemetery Road Baptist Church, 11 Napier St, Sheffield S11 8HA

On Saturday 13th August 2016 the Alliance for Justice will be standing with UK-based survivors of the Gatumba massacre at an event in Sheffield to mark the 12th anniversary of this tragedy.

On the night of August 13th 2004, over 160 Congolese civilians – half of them children – were massacred at the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi. The victims were singled out specifically because of their ethnicity – almost all the dead were members of the Banyamulenge Tutsi minority.

Despite widespread international condemnation of a crime that many believe to have been an act of genocide, to date no-one has been brought to justice for the attack.

Amid ongoing violence against the Banyamulenge community, thousands have been forced into exile, with many being recently resettled in the UK.

The UK Banyamulenge Community Association ( is organising this event to honour those who died on August 13th 2004, support the many UK-based survivors, and bring together all those seeking an end to impunity for mass atrocities.

Similar events are being organised around the world, as the Banyamulenge community campaigns for justice over Gatumba and an end to the violence in Congo, Burundi and the wider region.

“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

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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.

International Crisis Group highlights link between impunity for past crimes and the ongoing violence in Burundi

From “Burundi: How to Deconstruct Peace“, November 2015:

 In truth, the success of Burundi’s peaceful transition was overstated to begin with. The implementation of the Arusha agreement was both unfinished and undesired by the government. The ruling party… even blocked the implementation of several conditions, including, most prominently, those related to the creation of a special tribunal to judge the crimes of the civil war. Consequently, nobody has answered for these and Burundi has failed to move past them…

The return of authoritarian and corrupt governance to Burundi has been made possible because the guarantors of the Arusha agreement did not follow through on their commitments. They ignored early warnings about the return of authoritarian governance and that peace was beginning to unravel. Peacebuilding requires a long-term political engagement to have any degree of success. This is something that those seeking an end to the current Burundian crisis must bear in mind if they are to achieve more than a brief interruption of the country’s fighting and instability.

Impunity Watch: “by failing to prosecute those responsible for abuses… successive Burundian regimes… have paved the way for cyclic violence”

From “Crisis in Burundi: How to address impunity and prevent future violations?”, by Impunity Watch, September 2015

It is a fallacy to think that redressing past massive violations of human rights and protecting rights in the present are mutually exclusive. Burundi’s ongoing political crisis is a grave demonstration of this fact. By neglecting to uncover the truth about the past, by failing to prosecute those responsible for abuses, by instituting flawed reparations procedures, and by forsaking the key measures needed for guaranteeing non-recurrence, successive Burundian regimes have failed to address the culture of impunity and have paved the way for cyclic violence. Peace, stability and democracy cannot be built on the foundations of impunity. Criminal justice procedures in particular would have a normaffirming effect in Burundi and would demonstrate that no-one is above the law.

Titanic Express vigil, 3pm, December 28th 2015, Trafalgar Square, London

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On 28th December 2000, 21 people were shot dead during an attack on a bus – bearing the ill-fated name “Titanic Express” – close to the Burundian capital Bujumbura. Those killed were Tutsis and foreigners, specifically targeted because of their ethnicity. One Hutu passenger who was freed unharmed was given a chilling message for the authorities: “We’re going to kill them all and there’s nothing you can do”.

Among the dead were Burundian-Canadian Arthur Kabunda, British aid worker Charlotte Wilson, her Burundian fiance Richard Ndereyimana, and a number of Rwandan citizens. Several of the victims were children.

Despite repeated promises, the Burundian government has taken no action to prosecute those responsible for the Titanic Express attack. In 2005, amid warnings that failure to do justice over past crimes would lead to a resurgence in violence in future, all parties to the Arusha peace accord – which ended Burundi’s decade-long civil war – agreed to establish a “Special Chamber” to prosecute those responsible for the worst atrocities.

Yet this promise has never been delivered. Today, the situation in Burundi is worsening again, with each week bringing news of more deadly attacks. If the cycle of violence is to be broken, it is vital that those responsible for mass-murder are held to account for their crimes.

On December 28th 2015, the Alliance for Justice will mark the 15th anniversary of the Titanic Express massacre with a candlelit vigil close to the Burundian Embassy in Trafalgar Square, London. We will also be protesting against the ongoing violence which continues to claim lives today. Please join us if you can, and share with any others who might be able to attend:

Vigil to remember those killed in the December 28th 2000 Titanic Express massacre

December 28th 2015, 3pm, Trafalgar Square, London

Followed by a protest calling for an end to the ongoing violence and impunity in Burundi

Supported by the family of Charlotte Wilson and by members of the Burundian and Congolese UK diaspora

For more information please contact richardcameronwilson AT yahoo DOT co DOT UK

Take action for justice in Burundi – writing to your MP

In the UK, you can write to your Member of Parliament via the website to ask them to press the UK government to help secure justice in Burundi.

In June 2005, the United Nations Security Council, backed by the UK government, unanimously passed Security Council resolution 1606, mandating negotiations towards establishing a truth commission and special chamber to “prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burundi”.

Yet progress on this promise has been painfully slow, amid growing concern that Burundi’s pervasive culture of impunity will once again stifle efforts to deliver justice. As one of the largest aid donors to the region, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the UK has a vital role to play in ensuring that justice in Burundi is at last achieved.

We are asking MPs to write to the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Grant Shapps, reminding them of the commitments made in UN Security Council resolution 1606 and urging them to:

*Press the Burundian government to refer the genocidal August 2004 Gatumba massacre to the International Criminal Court as an immediate first step towards ending impunity.

*Press the Burundian government directly to deliver on its promise to establish a truth commission and “special chamber” to investigate and prosecute acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burundi.

*Press the UN and other international donors to present a united front on the issue of justice in Burundi, and re-invigorate international efforts to finalise the establishment of the truth commission and “special chamber” that was promised in 2005.

About the Alliance For Justice

The victim’s right to an “effective remedy” is guaranteed in international law and recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries around the world, decades of unpunished atrocities have created an insidious culture of impunity, fuelling a cycle of violence which continues to claim innocent lives.

In Burundi, since 1993, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed in a brutal sequence of massacre and reprisal.

While Burundi has been nominally at peace since 2005, the situation has deteriorated markedly since 2015, with a significant upsurge in political killings. There are longstanding fears that mass-violence will erupt again in future if those who have committed genocide and war crimes are not held to account.

One of many unpunished crimes is the genocidal killing of 166 Congolese Tutsis at the Gatumba refugee camp in August 2004. Half of those killed were children. Victims were targeted by their attackers solely because of their ethnicity. The following day, a Burundian Hutu-extremist group, Palipehutu-FNL, claimed responsibility for the killings, saying that they had no fear in doing so because they had become untouchable.

The same group is believed to have been behind a massacre four years earlier in which a British aid worker, Charlotte Wilson, was killed in December 2000. Charlotte was among 21 civilians dragged from their bus and shot dead following an ambush close to the Burundian capital. Passengers were selectively killed based on their ethnic background. One Hutu passenger who was released unharmed was told to tell the authorities “we’re going to kill them all and there’s nothing you can do”.

Despite promises from the Burundian authorities to prosecute those responsible, no-one has yet been brought to justice for either of these crimes, or for the many other ethnic massacres that have taken place in the country.

In June 2005, the United Nations Security Council, backed by the UK government, unanimously passed Security Council resolution 1606. In line with the Arusha Peace Agreement, which all parties to Burundi’s civil war had endorsed, this resolution mandated negotiations towards establishing a truth commission and special court to “prosecute those bearing the greatest responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burundi”.

The Security Council noted “the need, for the consolidation of peace and reconciliation in Burundi, to establish the truth, investigate the crimes, and identify and bring to justice those bearing the greatest responsibility… to deter future crimes of this nature, and to bring an end to the climate of impunity”.

Yet progress on these promises has been painfully slow, amid growing concern that Burundi’s pervasive culture of impunity will once again stifle efforts to deliver justice and end the cycle of abuse. As one of the largest aid donors to the region, a major contributor to the European Union aid budget, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the UK has a vital role to play in ensuring that justice in Burundi is at last achieved.

Why now?

The last two years have seen a renewed upsurge in violence, with state forces and a government-backed youth militia killing dozens of people in the run-up to national elections. These polls were boycotted by the opposition due to this repression and are not seen by international observers to have been free and fair.

Burundi now faces an uncertain future. Over 200,000 Burundian refugees have fled to Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There are particular concerns about the activity of the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth militia, amid reports of extra-judicial killings, kidnapping and torture. Many who committed atrocities during the decade-long civil war remain on the political scene, inflaming tensions and undermining Burundi’s fragile peace.

Progress towards ending impunity has stalled badly. The government’s plans for a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” fall far short of the promises made in the Arusha Peace Agreement, and fail to guarantee independence and impartiality. There is a danger that the gains made following the end of the civil war will be lost if progress towards justice and good governance is not brought back on track.

A renewed international focus on ending impunity in Burundi would send a strong signal that those who orchestrate mass-murder will be held to account and cannot evade justice forever.

Justice in Burundi is possible – the agreement in principle is already in place. What we need now is sustained international pressure to ensure that the full terms of the Arusha Peace Agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 1606 are finally implemented.

Justice in Burundi isn’t only about Burundi. The situation is closely tied to that of neighbouring Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mass-killings that began in Burundi in 1993 helped set the stage for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, while more recently the presence of Burundian armed groups in eastern Congo has exacerbated the on-going conflict there.

Renewed war in Burundi would almost certainly have an impact across Central Africa, affecting the lives of millions more people. Acting now to address past atrocities will help to secure a safer and more stable future throughout the region.