Max Delany / Associated Press – 2010-07-09 20:40:00
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (July 1, 2010) — Grenades cost as little as $3 each in this tiny East African country, and they have become the preferred method of settling political scores.
Burundi has seen more than 60 grenade attacks over the last month, sparking fears the violence could plunge the country back into civil war. The nation is working through a series of elections, and a vote this week saw the president win easy re-election after opposition candidates withdrew over fears the outcome would be rigged.
Typically thrown in the evening by assailants on motorbikes or in cars, the grenades have killed eight people and wounded almost 50. Targets have ranged from the posh homes of ruling-party insiders to opposition activists and crowded tin-roofed bars. The ruling party and opposition members have traded accusations of trying to wipe out opponents or intimidate voters.
“These attacks are a sign of the collapse in political dialogue in the country,” said Jean Marie Vianney Kavumbagu, head of a local election monitoring group. “Until the opposition decided to boycott the elections we did not have this level of attacks.”
He added that he expected grenade attacks to continue if opposition parties decide to boycott the legislative elections scheduled in the next two months.
Burundi and neighboring Rwanda have a bloodstained history, the result of violence between Hutus and Tutsis — the two main ethnic groups in these countries. Burundi’s civil war had been fought mainly between Hutu rebels and a Tutsi-dominated army, and resulted in the deaths of more than 250,000 people.
Used previously in isolated cases to settle personal disputes, grenades have become the terror weapon of choice because they are cheap and spark fear, said Celsius Barahinduka, a coordinator for a network of local organizations trying to cleanse Burundi of its weapons caches.
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