About 250 immigrants from Burundi marched down Congress Street in Portland on Saturday to call on the United States and other countries to help pressure the African nation’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, to abandon his decision to seek a third term.

The marchers said they were out to support protesters who have taken to the streets in Burundi during the past week. The marchers said they were also protesting violations of human rights by Nkurunziza and his supporters.

They say Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term violates the Arusha Agreements, which in 2003 ended a 10-year civil war between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-led army that killed more than 250,000 people in Burundi.

“We need America to stop this third term,” said Joseph Bizimana of Old Orchard Beach.

Bizimana, a Burundi native and U.S. citizen, organized the march with Rosine Munezero of Westbrook, a Burundi journalist who immigrated to Maine three years ago. They are both members of Engaging for Action in Burundi, a national group based in Springfield, Massachusetts, that advocates for peaceful democracy in Burundi.

“We want them to give back everything they have stolen from the country. We need these people to face international justice. They continue to kill,” said Bizimana.


The Portland march coincided with protests in Washington, D.C., Arizona and Texas over the past two days. The Burundian community numbers about 1,000 in Maine and is politically active.

In 2012 immigrants from Burundi gathered in Portland to protest a visit by that country’s interior minister, Edouard Nduwimana, who was in town for a youth conference organized by the head of the International Christian Fellowship Church on Munjoy Hill. Protesters claimed he had ordered the executions of dozens of opponents.

Carrying signs, waving the American and Burundian flags and singing Burundi’s national anthem, marchers on Saturday set out from the Portland Exposition Building on Park Avenue and proceeded to St. John Street and up Congress Street to Monument Square. There they chanted, sang and gave speeches for several hours.

Munezero said it has been difficult to find out what has been happening in her homeland.

“The communication is not easy. We are afraid. Anytime something could happen,” said Munezero.

Ghislaine Mparanirubumwe of Portland, who emigrated from Burundi in 2013, said by joining the march she was fulfilling the meaning of her last name, which means “I stand for unity” in her native language.


“We are standing up as one person. We have to make our voice heard,” said Mparanirubumwe.

Leandre Habonimana of Portland, who came to Maine in 2012, said he is worried for his parents and siblings during the protests in Burundi.

He said he talked to his father before the demonstrations started.

“He said he is very afraid of the government militia. They are threatening people, including him,” said Habonimana.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


Twitter: bquimby

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