Burundi’s ruling party sought Wednesday to distance itself from a viral video showing members of its feared youth wing threatening to impregnate opposition women.
Hundreds of the youths known as Imbonerakure — "those who see from afar" in the local Kirundi language — are shown in military-like formation singing "impregnate the opposition so that they give birth to Imbonerakure".
The ruling CNND-FDD initially said the video which began circulating three days ago had been faked by the opposition, but was on Wednesday forced to admit its authenticity after it sparked outrage on social media networks.
"A video has been circulating on social media showing youths gathering in Ntega in Kirundo province. Unfortunately some youths sang a song which is not consistent with the morals or ideology of the CNDD-FDD," the party’s communication chief Nancy-Ninette Mutoni said in a statement.
She said the party condemned their "misuse of language ... in the strongest terms".
The Imbonerakure have come under the spotlight since Burundi plunged into crisis two years ago when President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a bid for a disputed third term in office, prompting massive protests and a failed coup attempt.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported their involvement in arresting and attacking opposition members, carrying out torture and gang-raping women.
"Attackers from Burundi’s ruling party youth league tied up, brutally beat, and gang-raped women, often with their children nearby," said Skye Wheeler, a HRW women’s rights researcher, after the group interviewed more than 70 rape victims in a Tanzanian refugee camp in May 2016.
HRW said the youth wing — which the United Nations terms a militia — often collaborated with police and the military.
In January Mutoni said the Imbonerakure "not only have the right but also the obligation to do surveillance and to signal all movements and suspect acts to the security forces".
Since Burundi’s 2015 election crisis, the UN estimates some 500 people have been killed — a year-old death toll that NGOs believe is in fact as high as 2,000. More than 400,000 have fled the country.