Burundi Situation ‘Spiraling Out of Control’


Human Wrongs Watch

The situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate amid ongoing killings, arrests and detentions in the latest post-election turmoil to afflict the country, the United Nations human rights office on 14 August 2015 reported.*

**Photo: People demonstrate in Bujumbura against a decision by Burundi’s ruling party to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term (April 2015). Photo: Desire Nimubona/IRIN

“We urge all sides to resume dialogue before the situation spirals completely out of control,” warned Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as she addressed reporters today in Geneva.

“Burundi has been slipping closer to the edge with every high-profile attack and killing, and we call on leaders on all sides to take concrete steps to renounce the use of violence and to resolve differences peacefully,” she continued.

“Where violations and abuses have occurred, there need to be prompt investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account and justice for victims.”

According to the UN, civil unrest erupted on 26 April in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, after the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April as its candidate for the then-scheduled 26 June presidential election.

Nkurunziza has been in office for two terms since 2005, and a broad array of actors warned that an attempt to seek a third term was unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi that ended a decade of civil war in the country.

Refugees from Burundi in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte

Refugees from Burundi in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo: OCHA/Naomi Frerotte

The OHCHR spokesperson observed that since the outbreak of violence in April, at least 96 people have been killed, mostly among opposition supporters, while some 600 people have been arrested and detained. Among those detained, there have been at least 60 cases of torture and many more cases of ill-treatment, she added.

“So far, no trials have taken place in relation to the violence, killings, torture and ill-treatment since April, although the authorities have repeatedly indicated that investigations are under way and that some police elements have been arrested,” Shamdasani said, noting that the actual numbers of persons killed, detained or tortured may be much higher than initially thought.

“We understand that in very few cases have investigations actually been initiated. Continuing impunity in Burundi can only fuel cycles of violence.”

Along with the increasing human rights violations, the mounting violence across Burundi has also provoked a widespread humanitarian crisis as refugees have spilled across the country’s borders and fanned throughout the region.

Indeed, the most recent data state that over 200,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries with 85,200 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, 71,600 in Rwanda, 28,300 in Uganda, 14,322 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 7,000 in Kenya, and 3,000 in southern Africa.

Burundi Government Urged to Forge ‘New Path’

The Government of Burundi should immediately seize the opportunity for dialogue and forge a “new path,” United Nations and international envoys on 12 August 2015 declared, condemning the wave of recent attacks in the crisis-torn country and urging parties to show “restraint, leadership, and vision.”

***Photo: Burning barricades in Bujumbura, as turmoil erupted in Burundi. Photo: Desire Nimubona/IRIN

“Following months of unrest and the controversial electoral process, the Burundian government can begin to restore credibility through engagement in an inclusive political dialogue with political parties, including opposition and the Frondeurs of the CNDD-FDD, and civil society,” stated the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Said Djinnit.

Djinnit issued that statement jointly with a team of international special envoys, which included African Union’s Special Envoy, Ibrahima Fall, United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa Thomas Perriello; European Union Senior Coordinator for the Great Lakes Region Koen Vervaeke, and Belgian Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes Region Frank De Coninck.

“The Burundian government cannot afford to continue down a road marred by instability, division, extreme economic decline, and humanitarian crisis. Already one of the most fragile economies in the world, Burundi’s economy has plummeted further in recent months and shows little sign that it can recover in the absence of a resolution to the political crisis,” declared the envoys, stressing that donors’ willingness to continue partnering with the Government is dependent on progress towards restoring the country’s democratic credentials.

Calling for an immediate end to violence, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the resumption of an inclusive political dialogue, they condemned the killing of General Adolph Nshimirimana and the attack on human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, journalist Esdras Ndikumana and others, and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

“Violence will not resolve Burundi’s political crisis and will only further the instability. Calls for violence will be condemned and will discredit those individuals and parties that make them”, the envoys continued, calling upon the Government of Burundi and other political parties to immediately recommit to a transparent, inclusive, and comprehensive political dialogue.

A soldier stands guard outside a polling station in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura. Photo: MENUB

A soldier stands guard outside a polling station in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura. Photo: MENUB | Source: UN

“The National Assembly’s decision last week to eliminate quotas ensuring ethnic and gender balance in its leadership committee indicate a disturbing intent by the ruling party to repeal one of the fundamental principles of peace and stability that enabled Burundi to emerge from protracted civil war,” the Envoys regretted, while encouraging parties to recommit to the Arusha Agreement and its power-sharing provisions.

The crisis in Burundi continues to spill across borders, with over 200,000 people seeking refuge across the region. The latest numbers show 85,200 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, 71,600 in Rwanda, 28,300 in Uganda, 14,322 in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC), 7,000 in Kenya, and 3,000 in southern Africa.

Commending these countries for their humanitarian contributions as hosts, the Envoys said that dialogue that brings about a political resolution to the instability in Burundi is the best route to encourage the safe return of refugees and prevent regional instability.

*Source: UN

**Photo: People demonstrate in Bujumbura against a decision by Burundi’s ruling party to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term (April 2015). Photo: Desire Nimubona/IRIN

***Photo: Burning barricades in Bujumbura, as turmoil erupted in Burundi. Photo: Desire Nimubona/IRIN

BACKGROUND:

The Republic of Burundi, is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.****

Author of map: User:Rei-artur

Author of map: User:Rei-artur

Its size is just under 28,000 km² with an estimated population of almost 8,700,000. Its capital is Bujumbura. Although the country is landlocked, much of the southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.

The Twa, Tutsi, and Hutu peoples have occupied Burundi since the country’s formation five centuries ago. Burundi was ruled as a kingdom by the Tutsi for over two hundred years.

However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Germany and Belgium occupied the region, and Burundi and Rwanda became a European colony known as Ruanda-Urundi.

Political unrest occurred throughout the region because of social differences between the Tutsi and Hutu, provoking civil war in Burundi throughout the middle twentieth century. Presently, Burundi is governed as a presidential representative democratic republic. Sixty-two percent of Burundians are Roman Catholic, eight to ten percent are Muslims and the rest follow indigenous beliefs and other Christian denominations.

Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. It has the lowest per capita GDP of any nation in the world. Burundi has a low gross domestic product largely due to civil wars, corruption, poor access to education, and the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Burundi is densely populated, with substantial emigration. Cobalt and copper are among Burundi’s natural resources. Some of Burundi’s main exports include coffee and sugar.

****Source: Burundi portal | Map: Author: User:Rei-artur

Read also:

Church v State: a Worrying Dynamic for Burundi

2015 Human Wrongs Watch


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