More than 400 people have died in Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to undermine the country’s constitution and run for a third term. Some were targets of assassinations, like the senior general who was shot dead with his wife on Monday outside of their daughter’s school. Others were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of the government’s increasing paranoia and ruthlessness. Since Nkurunziza’s announcement a year ago, over 260,000 people have fled to the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Refugee camps are overcrowded, food is scarce, and aid agencies are struggling to get the world’s attention. Photographer Alberto Maretti spent a month in the capital Bujumbura and came back with images of a little-covered crisis that is spiraling out of control.
Roads & Kingdoms: Why did you decide to go to Burundi?
Alberto Maretti: I’ve always been interested in the history of the African continent, particularly in the Great Lakes region, and its evolution from colonialism to today. After a civil war that lasted nearly two decades, Burundi was about to reach a certain stability, though some problems still remained. When President Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in 2015, it destabilized the fragile balance that the country had managed to reach after the end of the war. When the first demonstrations against the renomination of Nkurunziza took place, I was working in Colombia, and a possible coup was already in the air. It took place in May, and failed. I continued to follow the events in Burundi until I was able to travel there in February 2016.