PORTLAND – About 75 refugees from Burundi protested across the street from the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Saturday, saying they were insulted by the presence of a high-ranking official from the government that oppressed them in their homeland.

Edouard Nduwimana, Burundi’s interior minister, is in Portland to take part in a youth conference organized by the head of the International Christian Fellowship Church on Munjoy Hill.

Several of the protesters alleged that Nduwimana ordered the executions of dozens of the ruling party’s opponents.

“The government is made up of people who are criminals. They have been tried and given sentences, but those sentences have not been applied,” said Norbert Kanteyineza, one of the protesters.

“We don’t want him (Nduwimana) here because he is part of a government that is killing people,” said Mia Ntahobari, who has lived in Portland for two years. “I was persecuted (in Burundi). I am a defender of human rights and especially women’s rights. In Burundi, women are raped every day — especially by the military.”

Some members of Portland’s Burundi community are members of the church holding the youth conference, and they feel betrayed by the decision of Pastor Mutima Peter to invite the interior minister, Kanteyineza said.

A person who answered the phone at the church said the pastor had no comment on the protest.

Managers at the Holiday Inn by the Bay said they couldn’t put calls through to Nduwimana or his party because they didn’t know which room they are staying in. No rooms were registered in Nduwimana’s name or in the name of the Burundi government, they said.

The protest was peaceful, said Sarah Ripley, a manager at the hotel.

She said when the protesters arrived Saturday morning, they gathered near the hotel’s entrance. When the hotel management asked them to move across Spring Street so other guests would not be inconvenienced, they complied, Ripley said.

The hotel did not bring in any extra security to deal with the protesters, she said, and did not call police, although she saw a few more patrol cars than normal going by on Spring Street during the day.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. The per capita income in the landlocked African country is just $400 a year.

The country’s first democratically elected president was assassinated after just 100 days in office, according to the CIA World Factbook, touching off violence between Hutu and Tutsi factions that left more than 200,000 Burundians dead during more than a decade of fighting.

An international power-sharing agreement ended much of the fighting in 2003, but the protesters Saturday said the government is continuing to persecute its political opponents.

Eugenie Umurutasate, one of the organizers of the protest, said she and others will be back at the Holiday Inn today, when youth conference activities are scheduled to move from the church to the hotel.

Staff Writer Bill Nemitz contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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