Family caught in civil unrest

Ray and Mary Anne Bale operate an orphanage in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Uncertainty continues to create challenges for a Vernon family in central Africa.

Violence has escalated recently in Burundi as competing groups have been attempting to gain control of the government since April.

“Things are quite bad here and it is not clear where it us all heading,” said Ray Bale, who runs an orphanage with wife Mary Anne and son Boss in Bujumbura.

Dozens of people died when military camps were attacked Dec. 11, and security forces then arrested hundreds of men and allegedly killed many of them.

“Our (Canadian) embassy has recommended we leave but we feel right to monitor things on the ground here for now,” said Bale.

“There’s lots of fear. People are afraid to leave their homes, or if they have, now afraid to return.”

The United Nations is calling for the violence to end and negotiations to begin among the factions.

“More than ever before, there is an urgent need for decisive action from the international community to stop this senseless violence. We cannot turn our backs on the people of Burundi at this turning point of their history,” said Cecile Pouilly High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson, in a statement.

“With this latest series of bloody events, the country seems to have taken a new step towards outright civil war and tensions are now at bursting point in Bujumbura.”

sThe violence began in the spring when president Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a controversial third term.

Bale admits the violence is unsettling.

“Darkness is the toughest time and it lasts 12 hours here. By 7 p.m., the city has an eerie quietness about it until the shooting and explosions start,” he said.