Murder of Episcopal Vicar in Burundi Was Planned, Say Sources

Gunmen Scrutinized His Passport

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BURURI, Burundi, OCT. 25, 2004 ( The Oct. 18 murder of Father Gerard Nzeyimana, an episcopal vicar in the Bururi Diocese, was premeditated, sources told the Fides agency.

That day, the Tutsi priest — well known for his courageous criticism of the perpetrators of violence against the people in Burundi’s 11-year civil war — was returning to Bujumbura, when his vehicle was stopped by gunmen on the outskirts of Nyanza-lac, in the south of the country.

«The assassins stopped the car carrying the priest and four women — three nuns and a young girl — demanded the priest’s passport and compared for quite a while the document’s photograph with the priest’s face to be sure that it was really he,» sources told Fides, an agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Once they were sure of his identity, they made him get out of the car and shot him in the back of the neck, the sources said. «It was a premeditated murder,» Fides said.

Sources said the killers are believed to be rebels of the National Liberation Forces (NLF).

The NLF, the second largest Hutu armed group in the country, has not signed any peace agreement with the government, unlike the Front for the Defense of Democracy. The FDD is considered the most important Hutu guerrilla movement in Burundi.

The FDD ratified an agreement with the government in 2003, and is now part of the transition government.

Father Nzeyimana’s funeral was held last Wednesday in the Bururi cathedral. «We have lost another man of peace,» said a priest who attended the funeral.

Last Dec. 29, the country’s papal nuncio, Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, fell victim in an ambush. The Irish-born nuncio had been a great promoter of peace in the country.

«Father Gerard was loved by all,» the priest at the funeral told Fides. «This was seen by the fact that at least 8,000 people, including other Christians and Muslims» attended the funeral.

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