Burundi trapped between lawlessness and fear

Mass protests against the CNDD-FDD ruling party Mass protests against the CNDD-FDD ruling party © Heinrich-Boll-Stiftung/ Igor Rugwiza

The population of  Burundi continues to suffer from severe human rights violations inflicted by the government security forces and a group of young militias.

Amidst the run-up to the 2020 elections, Burundi can be said to resemble a war-torn country, where opposing parties, activist groups, NGOs and media are constantly repressed by the police, security forces and the group of young “activists” called the Imbonerakure. The current unrest is a follow-up to the controversial 2015 elections, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, with the results of the vote contested by the opposition. Since then, Burundi has been experiencing continuous violence and political unrest, with up to 1200 people killed and more than 400000 displaced between April 2015 and May 2017. 

Although Nkurunziza announced he does not intend to run for re-election in 2020, a 2018 referendum for constitutional amendments was held. This referendum opened the way for a potential extension of Nkurunziza’s term up to 2034.

As reported by a UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the country experiences critical civil rights violations, with the government tightening its control over the population. It further reported on dozens of arrests, kidnappings, acts of torture and rapes committed by government forces and the Imbonerakure group. Freedom of expression is extremely limited, and reporters, alongside local and international news media and the population itself, must be aware of expressing their political views which are not in line with the programme of the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD).

Furthermore, the situation has been worsened by a recent outbreak of malaria, which, according to the latest reports, has already killed more than 1800 people, with 5.5 million confirmed cases throughout the region.


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Author: Pasquale Candela

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