[Catholic International is a traditionalist RC publication]

From .......... Catholic International

November 1995

pg 502




Yet another Hutu Catholic priest has been murdered by Tutsi extremists in Burundi, the eighth Hutu cleric killed in recent months amid escalating violence in the central African nation. Father Michel Sinankwa, director of the Development Office of the diocese of Bujumbura, was shot and killed by three youths Aug. 21, according to the Brussels-based Catholic information agency BIA/ANB. Sinankwa also served as the parish priest of Ngagara, a district of Bujumbura, Burundi's capital.

According to the Catholic news agency, Sinankwa had left his parish church at about 7:15 a.m. after celebrating Mass. He was heading to the town center when three youths stopped him and asked him for a ride. As soon as the priest opened the car door, the youths shot Sinankwa three times in the chest.

For 15 years, Sinankwa had been director of the Institute of the Catechetical Center of Mutumba, in the Bujumbura diocese. He was also known to be the personal adviser to Bishop Simon Ntamwana of Bujumbura. "Despite the dangers and repeated threats, Father Sinankwa had courageously remained in his parish which had been systematically cleansed of its Hutu population since the assassination of [Burundi] President Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993," said Joseph Ntamahungiro, an editor at the Brussels-based Christian publication 'Dialogue.'

Attacks on clergy in Burundi have been on the increase amid widespread ethnic violence which parallels the ongoing crisis in neighboring Rwanda. According to sources, many of the targeted clerics including Sinankwa were on a ''blacklist" of Burundi priests slated to be assassinated. Another cleric in Bujumbura remains under threat. Since mid August, an anonymous letter threatening Bishop Berchmans Nterere of Bujumbura has been circulating throughout the capital city. On Aug. 19, a grenade was thrown at the Hutu bishop's car while he was visiting a refugee camp housing displaced Tutsis. Nterere escaped the attack unharmed, but a mother and child were seriously injured in the explosion.

Sources said the situation in Burundi is becoming increasingly tense. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the past two years in tribal fighting. The motives behind the attacks on the clergymen most of whom have been Catholic priests are not clear. It is also not known who is orchestrating the murders or who has drawn up the alleged hit list. The international community has expressed shock at the upsurge in tribal killings in Burundi, but has so far been unsuccessful in bringing an end to the violence.

The former Belgian colony has experienced periodic bursts of ethnic bloodshed, if on a smaller scale than the violence in Rwanda. The majority Hutu and minority Tutsi communities in both countries have clashed on and off for decades. Christians in political and Church leadership have been accused of complicity in Rwanda's genocide last year. It is not clear what role, if any, the Catholic-dominated Burundi Christian community has played in that nation's continuing ethnic crisis.

News Network International, September 9, 1995