Burundi: 'You Are Young And Must Fight' - How Rebel Touts Manipulate Young Men Toward Armed Conflict
Justin Girukwigomba, a 24-year-old who lived in one of Burundi's dissident neighbourhoods until he fled the country at the end of June 2015, receives daily texts from a commander of a rebel group who wants to know why left the armed struggle. "How are you? Are you not going to come? Or have you abandoned us?" is one of the text messages Justin opened less than a month after he decided to leave the armed rebellion.
The young man's story is not atypical in the torn country. In his "old life", Justin was a student at the University Sagesse, in the capital Bujumbura's Asian district. His life was turned around when one of his best friends, 15-year-old Jean-Nepo Komezamahoro, was shot down at point blank range by a police officer as he raised his arms in the air between the dissenting districts of Ngagara et Mutakura.
Jean-Nepo, who was killed instantly, was returning from Church where he had celebrated his nomination as cub leader in the scouts. He fell within centimetres of Justin. "He was my friend, a scout, a child, a patriot and a good Christian," Justin recalls. "In my mind that meant the beginning of the war because, at first, the protesters were without machetes or guns but police shot them down, as if they were thieves or evil people."
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