Voices that cannot be silenced: Pierre Claver Mbonimpa speaks out on Burundi

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a leading Burundian human rights defender, speaks about surviving an assassination attempt and the dangers facing activists in Burundi.

On 3 August 2015, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was shot in the face and neck as he returned home in his car from the office. He survived the attack and is currently living abroad.

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), an organisation which provides vital assistance to detainees and victims of human rights violations, including torture and sexual violence. His defence of Burundi's most vulnerable has led to his work receiving much international acclaim.

On 27 October 2015, he received the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network's 2015 East Africa Shield Award, recognising his outstanding work as a human rights defender in Burundi.

A courageous and outspoken member of Burundian civil society, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa has been repeatedly threatened and harassed because of his work.

In May 2014, he was imprisoned and charged with endangering state security after comments he made on radio. He was released over 4 months later on medical grounds. In April 2015, he was arrested again by Burundian security services but released the following day.

In April 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to run for a third term, a move Burundian political opposition groups and civil society cited as unconstitutional and in breach of peace agreements. Mass protests followed and were focused predominantly in the capital, Bujumbura. A failed coup de état on 13 May 2015 heightened tensions. Private radio stations were closed by the authorities and many journalists and human rights defenders fled the country. The space for human rights defenders to operate became highly limited in an increasingly volatile security context. On 28 September, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, expressed concern over an « alarming upsurge in arrests, detention and killings in Burundi ».