Burundian rights activist stable after shooting

map_of_burundiA leading Burundian human rights activist, shot in the face by a gunman, was in a stable condition in hospital Tuesday morning, his family said.

“His condition is stable, and has even slightly improved,” the family member said.

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, who publicly opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial and successful bid for a third term last month, was shot as he made his way home from work in the capital on Monday by a gunman on a motorbike.

Several diplomats, including from the United States and France, as well as African Union officials, were at his hospital bedside during the night until the arrival of the police.

The shooting followed Sunday’s killing in a rocket attack of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, who was widely seen as the central African nation’s de facto internal security chief.

The attacks come just over a week after Nkurunziza was declared the outright winner of a controversial presidential election, securing a third consecutive term despite opposition protests and international condemnation.

Nkurunziza’s candidacy was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests that left at least 100 people dead in a fierce government crackdown, as well as an attempted coup in mid-May.

AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the attack and wished Mbonimpa “a speedy recovery”, while Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the government to ensure his safety.

“We are shocked at this blatant attack on one of Burundi’s most prominent and respected activists,” said HRW’s Africa chief Daniel Bekele. “The Burundian authorities should take immediate steps to secure Mbonimpa’s safety and protection.”

Dlamini-Zuma also called on the government to investigate the “attempted murder” as well as “all other such killings”, including the assassination on Sunday of Nshimirimana, a close aid to Nkurunziza.

After Nshimirimana’s killing, prominent Burundian journalist Esdras Ndikumana — who works for Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) — was badly beaten.

The political crisis in Burundi has seen independent media outlets shut down and many journalists have fled the country or have gone into hiding because of threats and attacks.

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