Monday, May 4, 2015

Friday, May 1

This evening after dark, there were 2 grenade attacks in the Kamenge neighborhood.  Three people were killed, 2 policeman and a civilian, and several injured.
The government has closed the University of Burundi and put all the students out in the street.  Now about 500 displaced students are camped out in front of the U.S. Embassy which is not far from the University.  Students say they feel safe near the Embassy, and some are asking for asylum.

Saturday, May 2nd

Just before noon there was another grenade attack, this time in the city center.  There were injured, but no one was killed.  We went to Branch 1 because they had scheduled a session of Easter General Conference to be shown at 2:00pm.  We arrived to find nothing set up, no one there.  The branch president called us a few minutes later, saying that he was calling to cancel the showing of the Conference session because he and many other members of the Church were going to the markets to stock up on food.  The markets were closed last week and were open this week-end to let people buy food.  Word is the markets will all be closed again starting on Monday.  Only about 5 people showed up anyway.  The 2nd counselor is leaving for Rwanda, and he's not alone.  Reports estimate between 20,000 and 26,000 Burundians have fled the country.

Sunday, May 3rd

We had Church today and showed a session of Conference.  Attendance was fair.

Monday, May 4th

This morning we had a phone call from Gian Franco letting us know roads in our neighborhood were blocked with rocks and debris.  We managed to make our way with much zig zagging  to DHL in the city center  Their door was padlocked but when someone came to do business, they would unlock it and let the person in.  DHL is located right across the street from a small park called Independence Square.  Police almost line the perimeter of the park and are ready for anything.  They have their riot shields, gas masks and automatic weapons.  Not much going on so some of them were relaxing.

There was hardly anyone on the roads today.  When we tried to go home on the biggest and best road in Bujumbura,  we were stopped and ordered to turn around.  Picture below shows what was ahead on that road.  All we could tell was there was lots of smoke and police presence.  Gunfire could be heard in several different areas today.

Latest on today's events:

Police in Bujumbura shot dead at least 4 demonstrators and wounded 46 others.  The Death toll now 
stands at 13, including 2 soldiers and 1 policeman.  A grenade attack wounded 15. Around 600 protestors have been arrested.   Returning to our apartment was kind of tricky, as so many roads were barricaded with rocks and junk.
 These are a couple of the blockades we found as we were trying to return to our place.

Things are difficult for the missionaries because they are not able to be out teaching the gospel.  It's also hard to find markets that are open in order to buy food.  They are all fine, but scared.
Finally, tonight, a quote from the U.S. Ambassador in Bujumbura:

"Violent suppression of dissent and intimidation of citizens who have a right to protest peacefully is unacceptable in a nation what wishes to strengthen its democratic transition from a post-conflict society."
It went  on to deplore the authorities' decision to shut down African Public Radio, the main independent radio station in the country.

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