Burundi at precarious path ahead of 2020 elections

Reports of abuses are up ahead of next year’s election in Burundi as some people worry President Pierre Nkurunziza will run once more. The government of Burundi is trying to portray an image of calm while citizens are anxious that the upcoming vote could be bloody, like the one in 2015 that sparked political turmoil that still simmers today.

Concerns are growing that the situation will worsen before the next election set for May 20. To date various field offices of opposition party CNL have been ransacked, defaced or destroyed and this is happening across Burundi.

Nkurunziza’s ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy, and its youth militia, the Imbonerakure, have been accused by rights groups of killing, torturing, raping and intimidating members of the opposition.

Reports indicate that during the month of October 2019, CNDD-FDD has distributed arms and conducted a briefing session to Imbonerakure militia in Buganda, Murwi and Rugombo communes in Cibitoke province and  fire arms were reportedly distributed to the imbonerakure youth militia and ex-combattants.

They are reports of people being killed, harassed, disappeared and this is a real campaign against people who are opponents of the CDD-FDD and it’s continuing to build up as Burundi approaches the presidential election.

For instance Thaddée Nkurunziza, suspected of being an opposition supporter was arrested in Buganda by the head of the presidential police (Appui) in Cibitoke province. Since his arrest on 13th October 2019, his family lost track of him and it is feared that he has allegedly been excuted.   In similar circumstances, recently four mutilated bodies of unidentified men with their hands tied were found in Nyamitanga/Buganda, Cibitoke Province, floating in the Rusizi River. Local authorities and soldiers chased onlookers and hastily buried the bodies without any investigation.

Relatedly, on October 10th, 2019 in Kirundo a group from the ruling party youth militia (the imbonerakure) engaged in a fight against supporters of CNL opposition party. Several people were injured.

Factors leading to deteriorating situation in Burundi include an unstable political, economic and social environment; a climate of impunity for human rights violations; a weak judicial system; and the absence of an independent press and freedom of expression. 

In an attempt to muzzle Press Freedom, Burundi regime media regulator CNC has just come up with a “code of conduct for journalists during upcoming elections”.  The code forbids any reporting on provisional results, no opinions polls allowed, etc. However, the signing of the code of conduct raises concerns among some media professionals.

Compounding the political unrest is the dire economic and humanitarian situation in a country whose GDP per capita slipped 3% in 2018, according to latest Economic data from IMF and World Bank.

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