Claude resists political tyranny

Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.

As a pastor in his native Burundi, Claude embraced change to make his country a better, more equitable place to live. In the name of love, Claude overcame the country’s old ethnic divisions - he is Hutu and his wife is Tutsi. He also backed political change in Burundi, an east-central African nation with a history of violence and little tolerance for dissent.

In 2015, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza sought an unlawful third term, which led to a coup attempt by General Godefroid Niyombare. Claude supported the coup. Unfortunately for him and other dissidents, the coup was not successful. 

From that point on, Claude had run-ins with the imbonerakure, a powerful youth militia that led a government campaign of intimidation. The imbonerakure demanded that Claude pay them money; they came to his home every evening asking for payment. When he refused, they terrorized him. Claude reported it to city authorities, but they took no action.

Soon after, Burundi intelligence services imprisoned Claude’s son because of his participation in demonstrations and because he worked for General Niyombare. 

In March 2017, a few months after his son was released from prison, Claude came to the U.S. to attend a church conference. During this visit, Claude received three appearance demands and an arrest warrant by the Burundi Police. They also sent an arrest warrant for his wife, who escaped to Rwanda. The rest of Claude’s family – nine children, in all - left home to live with other family members in Burundi because their home was not safe. 

In 2018, LCSNW’s Safe Route Immigration program filed an affirmative asylum application for Claude, and in 2021 he was granted asylee status. He is working with Safe Route’s accredited representative in Portland, where he lives, to bring his family to the U.S. This has been taking several years, which is common.