In 2015 President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi announced he was going to run for a third term, which sparked protests from those opposing another term in office. Those opposing his third term said it was a violation of the constitution. The protests lasted for a few weeks but still the court approved Nkurunziza's running for office. During the weeks of demonstration before the election dozens were killed and 175,000 people fled to nearby countries to escape the violence. Nkurunziza won the majority vote and afterwards a politician from the opposition said they should form a national unity government in order to avoid a civil war.
By November 2015 around 200 people had been killed in Burundi due to the political unrest. There were extrajudicial killings by security forces, arbitrary arrests, reports of torture, and forced confessions. Political leaders used hate speeches to instigate fears of violence. The government restricted freedom of expression and nongovernmental organizations were suspended. By the end of the year a total of 200,000 people had fled the country.
By March 2016 474 people had died from the violence in Burundi, although it could be closer to 1,200. Cara Jones who is a US political science professor said there could be more killings and disappearances in the rural areas. The abductions, arbitrary arrests, and torture had increased since the beginning of that year. There were reports of brutal violence such as mutilations, smashed bones, slit throats, and beatings with iron bars. Bodies had been found lying in the streets and in mass graves. Nigimbere Oliver witnessed her parents being slaughtered and her two year old beaten to death with a piece of wood. Like many other refugees, she fled to Tanzania. But many of the camps in Tanzania are overcrowded and the refugees are struggling to survive with little food and water.
At least 100 children were forced to become soldiers in the midst of the Burundi violence. In March 2015 Jean-Pierre was conned into taking a job at a shop by a stranger but ended up being taken to a forest training camp and was surrounded by men in military uniforms. Jean-Pierre and the other children at the camp were taught how to use guns and some became porters or cooks for the fighters. Some children were forced to participate in an attack in Kayanza after a few weeks of training and others were used to carry equipment for older fighters. Those that were forced to participate in the attack ended up being sent to prison in poor conditions. Later on the boys were sent to a re-education center and then were finally released in November 2015 after a presidential pardon. Several of them have had a hard time adjusting back into their communities; some have been threatened, faced with abuse, or rejection.
In July 2016 the United Nations proposed to send 228 police to monitor the crimes against humanity in Burundi and to help deescalate the violence. The day after 1,000 people marched to protest the UN's decision. Burundi's government refused to accept the deployment. Philippe Nzobonariba, a government spokesman, said Burundi's security forces were in control and that it would be a violation of the country's sovereignty.
By November 2016 the fighting in Burundi was leading to civil war and genocide. 1,000 people had died, there were 300-800 missing, 8,000 being held for political reasons, and 300,000 had fled the country seeking refuge in other places. Burundi's government had condemned a human rights report by the UN, withdrew from the International Criminal Court, and suspended five Burundi organizations that defended human rights. Rights groups said Burundi's break with the international community was adding to repression and crimes against citizens.
Towards the end of 2016 a youth group called the Imbonerakure killed, tortured, and beat people. One 15 year old was beaten to death and another was blinded in the eye with a knife. One man had his eye cut out and was stomped to death afterwards. In some provinces the Imbonerakure setup roadblocks and have taken money or possessions from others and beaten people passing by. Many of the victims have been scared to speak out about the abuses. Some of the Imbonerakure had been arrested for their crimes, but many were released without going to trial. In some instances crimes were investigated but only when the person filing a complaint paid a bribe.
Throughout 2017 the violence in Burundi simmered down. By September there was up to 2,000 deaths, although the number could be much lower since it was hard to estimate. There were at least 40 reports of sexual violence. Burundi's government was accused of crimes against humanity by UN investigators. The UN asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation. The authorities in Burundi have cut ties with the international community making it difficult for justice to be served.
In September 2017 around 39 Burundi refugees were killed and 94 were wounded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A few nights prior there were four Burundian refugees that had weapons and were held by the army for two days. A few days later other refugees went to the National Intelligence Agency to protest the detainment and troops started firing shots in the air. Afterwards the refugees started throwing stones and one took a gun from a Congolese soldier and shot him. The soldiers then opened fire and started shooting randomly in the crowd.
Burundi refugees are living in unstable conditions and the Burundian government has been urging them to come home even though it is not safe yet. They are still faced with insecurity of death, sexual violence, and torture when returning home. The countries hosting refugees have received limited humanitarian aid and have had to limit food rations. The President of Tanzania suspended registration and naturalization of refugees last July and officials working with the Ugandan government told refugees it was safe to go home.