Burundi: Authorities Must Put an End to the Repression and Guarantee the Protection of Fundamental Freedoms

27/04/2015
Press release
en fr

FIDH and the ITEKA League condemn the acts of violence committed yesterday in Bujumbura that reportedly killed at least 4 people and injured many more. Our organisations also condemn the arrest of Mr Pierre Clavier Mbonimpa this morning at the Maison de la presse and the decision of the Burundian authorities to prevent the provinces from receiving information from the three independent radio stations by suspending these stations’ right to broadcast there. Since more demonstrations have been planned, our organisations call on all political actors to take the necessary measures to avoid more confrontation and urge the Burundian authorities to respect the right to peaceful demonstration as well as freedom of expression and the right to information.

The Burundian authorities must understand that repression is no answer to political impasses. The worst is to be feared if there is no stop to the confrontations and the disregard of the fundamental freedoms. To counter these threats, the international community must immediately condemn the repression and mediate the situation to guarantee the holding of free and transparent elections. This is the only way to avoid creating a situation that cannot be reversed”, stated our organisations.

On Saturday, President Pierre Nkurunziza was invested as the presidential candidate of the CNDD-FDD, the ruling party, for the elections scheduled for June 2015. For several months, many voices, including among the opposition parties, the civil society organisations, the churches, and the foreign diplomatic representations were raised against Nkurunziza‘s presidential bid, saying that it violated the provisions of the Arusha Agreement (2000) and the Burundian Constitution. FIDH and ITEKA have issued alerts on the risk of an escalation of violence and called upon all political stakeholders to refrain from acts that could set the situation ablaze.

Yesterday, to protest against Nkurunziza’s nomination, hundreds of people took to the streets of Bujumbura. Hundreds of police agents were on duty in various districts of the city. They met the demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and live bullets. According to the information received our organisations, in some districts, especially in the Cibitoke district, the Imbonerakure (members of the youth league of the ruling party) helped the police drive back the demonstrators. Some witnesses reported that in several districts, especially Kanyosha, groups of 50 to 100 Imbonerakure marched through streets, armed with sticks and repeating their slogan “We’ll beat the living daylights out of you if you keep demonstrating”.

According to the Burundian authorities, yesterday’s violence cost at least two lives, including that of a young 15-year old who was shot dead in the Ngagara district, and wounded many others, including some police officers. Our organisations received information suggesting that at least two other people were killed by firearms in the evening in the Mutakura district in Cibitoke (around 9th avenue). As the toll may go up, our organisations urge the Burundian authorities to investigate these cases to cast full light on the circumstances leading to the death of these people.

FIDH and the ITEKA League also condemn the arrest of Mr Pierre Clavier Mbonimpa, President of the Association for the defence of human rights and prisoners (APRODH) this morning at the Maison de la presse. FIDH and the ITEKA League recall that Mr Mbonimpa has been targeted for judicial harassment during the last several months and strongly urge the authorities to release him immediately and guarantee his physical integrity. Our organisations also urge the authorities to refrain from all reprisal again human rights defenders and independent journalists and, in this field, they denounce the government’s decision to suspend the broadcasting, in the provinces, of information transmitted by independent private radio stations namely, African Public Radio (RPA), Bonesha FM and Isanganiro. Yesterday morning, the Ministers of the Interior, Public Security, and Communications went to the RPA studios and accused the station of participating in a rebel movement. They decided that the three private radio stations would no longer be authorised to broadcast live, and suspended their retransmission rights in the provinces. Conversely, radio REMA FM, known to be close to the ruling party, is still is allowed to broadcast freely, live and in the provinces.

Our organisations wish to recall that according to the UNHCR, yesterday’s count of the number of Burundians fleeing the pre-electoral violence and taking refuge in Rwanda had reached 15,000. Other refugees are seeking shelter in Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. Again according to the UNHCR, the refugees (most of them coming from Kirundo province, in northern Burundi) spoke of politically-motivated acts of harassment and intimidation, enforced disappearance of their relatives, and forced recruitment by members of the ruling party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure.

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Follow the situation in Burundi in direct on: @fidh_africa, @TcherinaJ, @fidh_fr

The coalition #MyVoteMustCount, an FIDH initiative, brings together over a hundred African and international civil society organisations to counter manipulation, fraud and violence during the 52 elections, of which 25 are presidential elections, that are scheduled to be held between 2015 and 2017 in 27 African countries. The civil societies demand that their governments respect their legitimate right to freely selected their representatives through regular, free, transparent elections, and through public mobilisation, field actions and political advocacy before each of the elections, until the elections in 2017. Is your organisation an independent civil society organisation? If so, then join the #MyVoteMustCount coalition.

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