Burundian police detain a protester in Musaga, on the ourskirts of Bujumbura, on April 28, 2015, during a protest against the president’s bid to cling to power for a third term. At least five people have died since clashes broke out on April 26 after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, designated Nkurunziza its candidate for the presidential election to be held in the central African nation on June 26. Photo: SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images
The Burundian government must halt its brutal clampdown on protestors contesting President Nkurunziza’s bid to stand again in the forthcoming elections, Amnesty International warned today, or risk the situation spiralling out of control.
“It is alarming that people have been killed as a result of expressing their views about the electoral process. This sets a dangerous precedent at a time when the Government of Burundi should be prioritising human rights and the protection of the population in the lead-up to the elections,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
The failure of the government to even guarantee people’s rights to life and security sends a worrisome warning signal about the risk of serious human rights violations. The police and the Government of Burundi must uphold their obligations with respect to peaceful demonstrationsSarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes
“The failure of the government to even guarantee people’s rights to life and security sends a worrisome warning signal about the risk of serious human rights violations. The police and the Government of Burundi must uphold their obligations with respect to peaceful demonstrations.”
“It is now critical for all parties in Burundi to take a clear and common stand against human rights abuses”.
Since 26 April, protesters have been killed and injured in Bujumbura as media houses have been closed. In the meantime, fearing an escalation of electoral violence, refugee outflows have increased, with an estimated 20,000 now across the border in Rwanda alone.
According to Burundian and international journalists as well as eyewitnesses and photos obtained by Amnesty International, at least two people were killed and several injured during clashes between the police and protesters.
The police have blocked access routes to Bujumbura’s city centre and have been dispersing protesters with tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition. Some protestors threw stones at the police and burnt tires.
Protests erupted in various areas of Bujumbura on Sunday 26 April after the announcement a day earlier that the ruling political party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), had selected President Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate for a third term.
This was perceived by many Burundians to be in violation of the Arusha Agreement. The decision is also viewed as opening the door to further changes to the power-sharing arrangements under the Arusha Agreement.
In anticipation of reactions to the possible decision, on 24 April, the Minister of Interior had previously declared a ban on all demonstrations. Until then, only demonstrations organized by the CNDD-FDD had been allowed to proceed unhindered.
Freedom of expression has also come came under attack when the police illegally banned the independent private radios Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), Bonesha FM and Radio Isanganiro from broadcasting outside Bujumbura.
Also on Monday 27 April, the authorities shut down a media coordination meeting at the Maison de la Presse (Media House) in Bujumbura, where the police arrested and detained Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, president of the human rights organization, Association pour la protection des droits humains et des personnes détenues (APRODH). He was only released the following afternoon.
Amnesty International has previously expressed concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi, notably regarding the freedom of expression, assembly and association and has urged the Government of Burundi to ensure the police and other law enforcement agencies fully respect these freedoms, do not interfere with peaceful assemblies and do not arbitrarily arrest, detain or otherwise ill-treat protestors.