Government bans NGOs for 3 months amid continued crackdown on civil society

Association

On 28th September 2018, the Burundian government announced a three-month ban on several local and international NGOs. Few details were released except that the organisations were provisionally suspended as of 1st October for allegedly violating the 2017 NGO Law. They will be allowed to reopen, according to the government, if they comply with the country’s regulations. The rules include strict control of their finances, the payment of administrative fees, and the implementation of ethnic hiring quotas. In enforcing the suspension, on 11th October, it was reported that three aid workers working with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) were arrested for allegedly flouting the ban. Pierre Nkurikiye, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Security stated that the three were 'working without special permission' and were under interrogation after their arrest.

The previous day, on 27th September 2018, the First Instance Division of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) declined to grant the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) the leave sought to appear as amicus curiae (friends of the Court) in a matter where they challenged the Burundian government’s order banning the activities and programs of five Burundian NGOs and freezing their accounts. The Court in its Ruling said that the Application fell short on proof of the Applicants’ expertise, neutrality or fidelity to the law and would therefore not succeed had it considered its merits.

In a separate development, on 13th August 2018, human rights defender Nestor Nibitanga was sentenced to five years imprisonment by the High Court of Mukuza in Bujumbura on charges of “undermining state security”. Nibitanga was charged because of reporting on human rights violations on behalf of the Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (The Burundese Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH)), where he worked as a regional representative, an organisation that was shut down by the government in 2016. Nibitanga had been detained incommunicado after he was arrested on 21st November 2017.

In early October, students from primary and secondary schools were expelled for failing to pay contributions for the country’s next general elections in 2020, in Makamba province (Southern Burundi). The mandatory contribution was added to the student's school fees on instructions from the Province's Governor, Gad Niyukuri. The government has been collecting contributions for the 2020 elections by imposing fees in different services, as well as deducting from citizens’ salaries.

On 19th October 2018, the Minister of Public Security, Pierre Nkurikiye, accused a prominent opposition Member of Parliament, Pierre-Célestin Ndikumana of Amizero y'Abarundi, of planning to assassinate President Nkurunziza and other top officials. Parliamentary sources said that a procedure to lift Ndikumana's immunity would be launched soon. Ndikumana however said the accusations were aimed at intimidating him and keeping him quiet.

Peaceful Assembly

On 17th August 2018, security agents arrested about 20 people from different political parties who were attending a workshop organised by the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP). Although the organisers had an authorising letter signed by the Ministry of Interior, they were also arrested. The police gave no reason for these arrests.