Burundi's continuing crisis takes a heavy toll on citizens' lives and freedoms
The situation in Burundi remains dire, with a dangerous climate of fear and government repression. A report by the International Federation for human rights (FIDH) and six Burundian human rights organisations outlines the toll the crisis has had on Burundi's citizens since April 2015: to date, over 1,200 people have been killed; there are between 400 to 900 cases of enforced disappearances, hundreds to thousands of cases of torture and more than 10,000 arbitrary arrests. More than 400,000 people have fled to neighboring countries and human rights groups anticipate that the number of refugees fleeing Burundi will increase drastically as the country becomes more dangerous and unstable.
At its second oral briefing to the UN Human Rights Commission on 15th June 2017, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi expressed deep concern over the state's ongoing violations of citizens' fundamental rights and human rights abuses committed by state agents, the Imbonerakure and armed opposition groups.
The Burundian government continues to wage its war against any form of opposition or dissent. Key civil society leaders wanted by the Burundian justice system were excluded from participating in the Inter-Burundian peace dialogue at the end of May 2017 in Entebbe, Uganda. In addition, members of the opposition, whether real or perceived supporters, continue to be arbitrarily detained and persecuted.
Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, Fatsah Ouguergouz, declared:
"The severe restrictions on civil liberties observed in 2015 are continuing. To this day, the main opposition party leaders as well as many journalists and other members of civil society are still in exile; some are the objects of international arrest warrants issued by the Burundian authorities".
SOS Torture Burundi, a monitoring group in exile, continuously documents human rights abuses in the country, including against activists and opposition leaders. Some of the arbitrary arrests that the group reported over the last few months includes:
- Edouard Nzambimana and Ladislas Sabukwigura, members of the National Liberation Front (FNL), were arrested on 15th May 2017 in Rutegama;
- Boniface Nibigira, a member of the opposition party Union for National Progress, was arrested on 18th May 2017 in the southeastern province of Rutana;
- FNL activist Eric Ntirandekura was arrested on 23rd May 2017 in Bubanza province. Ntirandekurawas was also reportedly threatened by members of the Imbonerakure militia prior to his arrest.
Journalists operate in a highly threatening environment in Burundi and face many obstacles from the regime when covering breaking news and developments in an objective and thorough manner.
Joseph Bananeno, a journalist from Radio Maria, was detained on 4th July 2017 on charges of "incitement to public disorder", for sharing information on WhatsApp regarding an armed man who intended to shoot archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye in Bujumbura. Bananeno was released two days later after paying a fine of 100 thousand BIF (approximately 58 USD).
Antédeste Niragira, correspondent for the German radio and broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Burundi, was arrested by the DRC’s National Intelligence Agency on 17th May 2017 near the Burundian-Congolese border, while reporting on the conditions in the Kavimvira refugee camp in DRC. He was detained on charges of lacking accreditation as well as authorisation to enter the refugee camp, and on suspicion of espionage. He was handed over to the Burundian police on 22nd May 2017, and released the next day.
For additional information on the alarming crisis facing Burundi, the video below features insights into the political situation in the country and commentary on major human rights issues from Carine Kaneza, a Burundian activist with the organisation - Burundi Women and Girls Movement for Peace and Security.