“African Union chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says that should the violence in Burundi persist, the continental bloc can still deploy peacekeepers to Burundi” (SABC, 2016).
This years ending is in a bit of limbo when it comes to Burundi. It started earlier in the year with the court ruling accepting the third term for the second term president Pierre Nkurunziza. He had an election that was without major opposition, they didn’t except the terms that we’re set for the elections. The inauguration we’re done in secret and secrecy. The incoming we’re written in stone.
There we’re massive protest, even a coup d’état attempt by certain army figures that dwindled into water and dust and trace. Some of the main men in central government flee the country with the estimated 220.000 people following them. 22.000 of them alone in Uganda and big numbers in major refugee camps in Tanzania. This is worrying for the 2016.
The fragile state and build-up of a military state again in Burundi; where the army and politics is mended together to oppress those who does not fit the regimes power-structure. We can see that with the instances of the opposition leaders who have been assassinated or killed during recent months. That is worrying and the world leaders are mostly silent.
Recent day’s actions by the African Union where they wish for peace operation in the country and that will be served by other African nations. That is argued by President Museveni of Uganda and President Nkurunziza that it is a breach of sovereignty of the state. Since the Burundi is a sovereign and can’t accept to be attacked by that principal. The Burundian president has even promised to attack the armies who enter the country. There was rumors when the coup d’état we’re occurring that he got help from Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and their helicopters to get him back into power. So if it helps him and his foes then it is okay to bring the power structure. The African Union forces would not serve under the President Nkurunziza therefore he fears this and would attack them.
The Burundian President has fought against his fellow countrymen since March and now the realization of the African brothers happens. Just as we enters a new year than they start to do something! The Belgium foreign minister have complained for a while in the darkness and the American have stopped their participation in the AGOA and put sanctions on the top officials of the country.
So certain movements have happen. There we’re in this week a second try of mediation between the Government of Burundi, certain opposition parties, four former presidents of the country, civil society of Burundi and the mediation team appointed by President Museveni. Who have told the media that the Government of Burundi can’t set the terms, though they are the ones going after the opposition leaders and harassing those who believes their power is not righteous. While the country turns into more turmoil and distress. Burundi doesn’t turn to the better, instead the violence and aggression continues and more people will flee or die in the hands of the army and the security organizations controlled by the President Nkurunziza. That is happening while the world is turning the blind eye.
Agathon Rwasa the FNL leader we’re assassinated this year and can’t be in the mediation. It is with sadness that main opposition leader is gone. That proves to what extent the President Nkurunziza goes to secure power. Gervais Rufyikiri the second vice-president fled the country this year. Also Zedi Feruzi was assassinated by government forces this year!
The worry is the reports of torture, death-squads and military operations forcing people to flee while cholera outbreaks in refugee camps in Tanzania. The mediation and Inter-Burundian Dialogue is supposed to find a peaceful path for the people of Burundi, but that will not take away the crimes committed by the Government against their own people and the breeches of justice that has happen. The fear that is spread and the unjustified violence against the protesters against a illegitimate government who forces themselves to a third term. This here is all about the matter of a power-hungry President who won’t leave power and he is seeking advice and mediation through African Union from another President Museveni who have kept himself in power since 1986. That the African Union is rubberstamping this mediation from a government who have done precisely what President Nkurunziza wishes to achieve. Domination and control of his fellow countrymen; this either by law or by force for him at this point it doesn’t matter. The intimidation and killings should not be happening in the shadows and mist of darkness.
The talks in Kampala right now is more formalities for the Government of Burundi to scan their opposition then actual talks and the former presidents is more puppets then actually initial force of changes to the better. Inter-Burundian Dialogue by the rouge regime of NRM and Uganda will just justify the Burundian governments stance and they will get time to learn from their masters and friends in country. Rwandan President Paul Kagame who just won a right to a new rounds of election and a third term possibility will not interfere in Burundi unless he have to, because the wounds and closeness to Burundi is to near. President Kagame also doesn’t want international interference or questions to his power. Since he himself will do what he can to stay in power, as President Nkurunziza does. The only difference it’s that President Kagame might not need to use as much force since he has silenced the critics since 1994 and kept the lid on the opposition ever since. Something President Nkurunziza didn’t have the time to do since the civil war that ended in 2005.
Therefore the 2016 will bring more violence and more fleeing refugees to Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The Burundian people will continue to be oppressed. The African Union will struggle to breech the sovereignty in the country as they did in Rwanda in 1994. Back in the day in Rwanda where even the United Nations Peacekeepers looked like tin-soldiers and not like men of honor; if the world doesn’t do anything fruitful and knows about the actions happening in Burundi. The world and it’s bodies of peace will be responsible for acting towards justice for the people since its own leaders have gone against them, instead of serving them, they are serving their own will and own wish to keep power. That have to be some ways of keeping this at bay, if not the ideals and dreams of fruitful peace be more in the wind. The blood and the loss of lives will be redeemed in eternity while we living will remember those lives in sorrow, as they died for nothing while the powers to be ate their souls to keep power. That is not something we can let happen in 2016 in Burundi, as the mediation talks lingers and the actions lingers, while the forces of Burundian army and security outfits continues, the deaths, the tortured, the jailed and the forgotten would need your support in the new year to come. Peace!
“He said there is no Burundian who was killed unfairly in Burundi. He also said the government is willing to sit and discuss and discuss with those with grievances” (NBS TV Uganda, 2015).
There was released a report on torture of citizens in Burundi in recent year from CSO Amnesty the 24th of August. This here has been described I will take the defining characters of this from that report, but also some older documentation to prove that this isn’t new actions from the Governmental and Security organizations in Burundi. In 2006 the Committee from International Service from Human Rights commented on the torture matters already then. After that I will look on what numbers and anti-torture project where the purpose was: “Effectively build capacity for sustainable support to victims of torture; and prevent future incidences of torture”. And the projects are telling from the USAID in the same period. USAID had also a monitoring period that ended in 2007 that gives some interesting insights to the methods of torture. United Nations has made a review of the situation when it comes to torture as well in 2014. So that Amnesty International is telling stories that everybody who cares about Human Rights should read all of the personal stories. I have taken the big picture from the report that was delivered from the organization on the 24th of August 2015. Which also shows to the works of the UN and OHCHR and describing the matters and sadness of how the police and other units treats its citizens who demonstrate against the government. It should be stopped and international community should do something about it. Though it’s an issue that is continuation from 2006 and I am sure earlier then that while in war, an CNDD-FDD promised to lead with the USAID projects to shun this activities, but certainly hasn’t with the reports released recently. Read under the quotes and outtakes from a set of reports and some of the pieces from Amnesty.
Reports from 2005 and so on:
“The Committee criticised the lack of a definition of torture in Burundian domestic legislation. The delegation admitted that while Burundi officially endorses the definition contained in the Convention, their criminal code does not define torture, nor is torture as such criminalised. In practice, torture is treated as an ‘aggravating circumstance’ and pursued on the basis of ‘infliction of bodily harm’” (…)”Both country rapporteurs underlined that the legislation prohibiting torture must not only cover physical torture (which is the case as long as torture is prosecuted under the category of ‘bodily harm’), but needs to extend to psychological and mental torture. The Committee drew the delegation’s attention to the obligation States have to initiate investigations into cases of torture. Mr Camara said that given the lack of a domestic legal basis, prosecutors in Burundi did not have a clear incentive to investigate cases of torture” (…)”the National Intelligence Service (NIS). It is responsible for the collection of date in order to protect the state security of Burundi. It can also carry out police functions and arrest people. According to the State report, the NIS is one of the main institutions involved in cases of torture. The Committee repeatedly expressed concern about this situation. Mr Mariño said the NIS seemed to have a dual mandate and be responsible for political oppression; it needed to be reformed, monitored and made accountable to the judiciary. Mr Camara asked if NIS officers could be sanctioned by the PPS; the delegation confirmed this with reference to ongoing cases. The delegation agreed that the NIS had too many prerogatives and specifically asked for recommendations on how to curb its power” (…)”In reference to the prohibition of the use of evidence obtained through torture, the delegation referred to a supreme court judgement which prohibits such evidence from being used in court. However, a Committee member pointed out that this particular decision is ambiguous since it says that “a confession is not proof in itself, but merely a piece of evidence that must be corroborated by other evidence”. The Committee felt this could be construed so that evidence extracted through torture could be used if supported by other evidence (Human Rights Series, 2006).
Turning to concrete cases, some Committee members asked about further information on a massacre which had taken place at Gatumba. The delegation responded by saying that it had issued a report which attributed the responsibility for the massacre to members of the armed movement PALIPEHUTU-FNL” (Human Rights Monitor Series, 2006).
What USAID has worked on a long while and had programs with:
“IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: Search for Common Ground (SF CG), Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS), Ligue ITE KA, Association pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APROD H)
FUNDING PERIOD: March 2003–September 2005
PURPOSE: Effectively build capacity for sustainable support to victims of torture; and prevent future incidences of torture” (Victims of Torture Fund, USAID, 2005-2006).
Trauma healing: Eighteen Healing Memory Group activities (785 participants) held to provide psychological healing for victims. 372 victims of torture received psychological support and 567 received medical services; 289 referred to partners; 750 transported to medical facilities (Victims of Torture Fund, USAID, 2005-2006).
Social Reintegration: Twenty-seven victims associations created. Thirteen ongoing series of monthly healing sessions/retreats with 1,636 participants (Victims of Torture, USAID, 2005-2006)
|USD In: Thousands of Dollars||1,200||500||1,200||2,900|
(Victims of Torture, USAID, 2005-2006)
USAID has continued to follow up the country and reports on Torture between October 2007 – September 2011. Here is their findings and what they have received of information on the matter: “Human rights. The project worked to strengthen the institutional capacity of civil society organizations, particularly those focused on women, to advocate for gender-based violence, victims of torture, and conflict management. By launching campaigns and engaging in effective discourse with the government and the media, civil society groups were able to open up about the sensitive and often dangerous nature of supporting human rights, which led to increased awareness and understanding” (…)”Victims of torture. In Burundi, torture continues to be practiced and victims have had little recourse because those in positions of authority, such as public security agents, presidential police, soldiers, local government officials, and rebel groups have all practiced torture without being held accountable for their actions. Through its activities, the project has been able to help Burundians open up a public dialogue and raise awareness about the problem of torture, a subject that over the years had become taboo in many parts of society” (…)”Victims of torture consortium. One organization cannot influence change alone, and working in the anti-corruption or human rights arena can be dangerous. Thus to strengthen advocacy against torture in Burundi, the project convened civil society organizations working in human rights and torture to start a dialogue on what is needed in this area and propose the idea of creating a consortium. The project worked via the consortium structure to coordinate these various and extensive activities. At subsequent meetings, the number of civil society organizations more than doubled and by the time the consortium, Consortium Action Contre la Torture (CACT), was incorporated it represented most of Burundian civil society working in human rights, with 26 organizations and government entities. The consortium, designed to coordinate advocacy for the eradication of torture in Burundi, identified priorities for reform when the consortium was first formed” (…)”Victims of torture grants. The project allocated 18 grants to civil society organizations in Year 2; eight of them provided medical and legal assistance to 453 victims of torture. The project provided medical, psychosocial healing, and legal and judicial assistance. The grants were provided to organizations with previous experience in this area, and they were able to work in cooperation with other grantees as well as in the consortium against torture. The most pressing need for a victim of torture is medical assistance. Many victims are debilitated or prevented from working due to the injuries, and others live with the physical scars and residual pain. The assistance consisted of providing victims medicine, hospitalization, and specialized care. Seven grantees provided medical assistance to victims in various provinces. One example of the medical services provided by grantees is the work done by ACAT, an organization that carried out medical services in 26 communes” (…)”In addition to being physically traumatic, torture is also emotionally and psychologically traumatic. Even if physical scars heal, there are lasting psychological effects. The project created a support group that fostered an atmosphere of empathy, affection, and security that victims greatly appreciated — especially significant because most victims never dared to speak about their experiences” (…)”In Year 4, project grantee ABDP-DRS advocated for the use of alternative sentencing to imprisonment in accordance with a law of 2009. By meeting with decision-makers, including prison authorities, police, and judges to present data from a survey, ABDP-DRS was able to provide information on alternative sentencing. It also organized prison visits so that police and judges could see the current conditions of the prisons to which they were sentencing perpetrators. Action Chrétien Contre la Torture (ACAT) also received a grant to continue advocating decision-makers and judiciary actors. ACAT equipped judges, judiciary police, and prison officers with information gained during site visits of detention centers in 11 provinces to evaluate the torture cases, living conditions for detainees, and the application of the penal code regarding torture” (Burundi Policy Final Reform, 2007).
When we see earlier what the UN has scaled on the State of torture in the State of the Burundi. The UN commented this on the issues that were at hand in 2014:
“Legislative measures for the prevention of torture
- While noting that an absolute prohibition of torture is established in the Constitution, the Committee is concerned at the numerous shortcomings of the organization and command structure of the country’s security services, particularly the Burundian National Police (Police nationale du Burundi) and the National Intelligence Service (Service national de renseignement). These services are still governed by presidential decrees, whereas the Constitution provides that they be governed by the necessary legal framework. While noting that article 31 of the State party’s Criminal Code establishes that an order from a superior officer cannot be used as an argument by the defence in a case of torture, the Committee remains concerned about the effective implementation of that provision (arts. 2, 6 and 16)” (United Nations, 2014).
The United Nations continues with this:
“The absolute prohibition of torture” (…)”The State party should, as a matter of urgency, take steps to incorporate provisions into its Military Criminal Code that establish that acts of torture and ill-treatment committed by military personnel constitute an offence, that such offences are not subject to any statute of limitations and that the sentences for such offences are irreducible. The provisions to be incorporated into the Code should also establish appropriate penalties” (…) “The Committee is alarmed by credible, corroborative and persistent reports of a large number of acts of torture and extrajudicial killings committed by members of the Burundian National Police and the National Intelligence Service. It is concerned about the slow pace and limited scope of the investigations and judicial proceedings that have been opened in this connection, which would appear to corroborate claims that the perpetrators of these acts enjoy impunity. The Committee also finds it regrettable that no information about cases that have gone to trial or the outcome of those trials has been forthcoming. It is also concerned at the absence of protection for victims and witnesses, who are subject to reprisals (arts. 2, 4, 6, 7, 12 and 14)” (…)”The Committee is alarmed at the appalling conditions of detention in places of deprivation of liberty. It deplores, in particular: the high levels of prison overcrowding; the failure to separate male prisoners from female prisoners, adults from minors and persons awaiting trial from those already sentenced; the shortage of beds and sleeping space; the poor sanitary conditions; the dilapidated state of the facilities; prisoners’ inadequate and unbalanced diet; and the lack of health care. It further deplores the death of 263 inmates, inter-prisoner violence and the sexual violence against women and minors perpetrated by other inmates and guards. Lastly, the Committee is concerned about the continuing practice, in the State party, of detaining patients in hospital for non-payment of fees” (…)”While taking note of the fact that article 289 of the new Code of Criminal Procedure provides for the compensation of victims of torture, the Committee expresses its concern at the failure to apply this provision, in violation of article 14 of the Convention” (…) “The restrictions on the right of assembly and demonstration imposed by law enforcement bodies and reports of cases involving the violent suppression of demonstrations resulting in the excessive use of force by the authorities, for example during the protests of March 2014” (…)“The serious human rights violations perpetrated by a youth group (referred to as the Imbonerakure) with close ties to the Government, including: the harassment of political opponents; the disruption of public meetings, acts of intimidation, arbitrary arrests and arbitrary detention and other acts of violence; and the use of so-called “amicable” arrangements for settling disputes. The Committee is deeply concerned by reports that the Government is providing this group with weapons and training” (United Nations, 2014).
Amnesty has in recent reports on how the torture has been from May 2015:
“Both the SNR and the Burundian National Police (PNB) are responsible for torture and other ill-treatment. Former detainees described being beaten with branches, iron bars, and police batons; and being stomped on, threatened with death, denied medical care, and verbally abused. In one particularly horrific case, a five-litre container full of sand was hung from a man’s testicles, causing enormous pain and swelling, and then the man was made to sit in a shallow layer of what he believed was battery acid, burning his skin severely” (…) “In and after the demonstration in April 2015 this has happen: “The police response to the demonstrations was marked by a pattern of serious violations, including of the right to life, freedom of association and peaceful assembly. They used excessive and disproportionate force, including lethal force, against protesters, at times shooting unarmed demonstrators running away from them. Even where children were present during demonstrations, police still failed to exercise restraint, and used tear gas and live ammunition” (…)”The cases of torture and other ill-treatment under SNR detention documented here all took place at the SNR compound near Bujumbura’s cathedral” (…)”In early June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Burundi told Amnesty International they had documented nearly 50 cases of torture and other ill-treatment. On 7 July, the UN Secretary General’s report on the electoral observation mission in Burundi stated that “some 307 people have been arrested, including 14 minors. Most of those arrested have been subjected to torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by security officers (mainly police and intelligence agents)” (…)”According to information received from lawyers, when individuals previously held by the SNR have alleged torture before court, the evidence obtained under such circumstances did not appear to have been declared invalid in spite of clear provisions in the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure. To date, there is no investigation and nobody has been arrested for torture at the SNR” (…) “However, the Burundian Code of Criminal Procedure makes provision for a detainee to remain silent if his lawyer is not present and for a detainee to communicate freely with his lawyer.16 A leading Burundian human rights organization, the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained People (APRODH), is no longer granted access to the SNR’s compound. At least one detainee says that he signed a document under duress” (…)”A man held at the SNR was also told by other detainees that the Imbonerakure had given information to the police for their capture” (…)”several testimonies of torture and other ill-treatment at a place known as Chez Ndadaye in Bujumbura. According to a policeman and UN human rights monitors, Chez Ndadaye is an operational command centre for the police.36 It is known as Chez Ndadaye because the presidential palace that housed President Melchior Ndadaye, the country’s first democratically elected president and first Hutu president, once stood there” (…)”According to the first policeman and two victims, demonstrators were not kept overnight at Chez Ndadaye, but were beaten there before being transferred to the judicial police and/or police stations” (…)”The OHCHR carried out a planned visit to Chez Ndadaye on 12 June 2015, but did not observe any torture or beatings at the time” (…)”One policeman told Amnesty International some policemen are frustrated by the situation. He explained: “Several policemen are not happy about what takes place at Chez Ndadaye and have complained to their superiors. Most of the perpetrators are those who were previously in the bush (ex-FDD). They beat protestors. Maybe around 10 people came through Chez Ndadaye every day. Police used their batons and electric wires to beat them. They’d say ‘you who are against Nkurunziza, you are wasting your time, he’ll be president forever’,” (Amnesty, 2015).
I don’t really want to comment more on the issues. Because the reports on reports are really telling its own tale, I will not add much on it. Then it’s a sad story of real men and woman who is scared and hurt for their position in society. That the UN, USAID, OHCHR and Amnesty reports from 2006-2015 is telling a vivid stories and painful facts. Too many victims of the government and police of Burundi, they all deserve a voice, they all deserve justice and a society where this wouldn’t happen. Instead the Police and Government of Burundi is going after their own people without prosecution and trial. Putting them in shackles, pushing them in cells and hurting them in places like Chez Ndadaye in Bujumbura and that is not the only house and police institution that is being used in a vile place. So no matter what people are being unjustified threaten and punished by the police and security forces in Burundi. There should be something the world could do to stop this systematic and unjust ways. Not just in writing and councils reviews of the United Nations, but in actual forum that can change the President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and the regime of the country. That is the issue and it’s not easy especially with the ways that the president got “elected” into the third term. Pierre Nkurunziza will always be remembered in a unique way and essentially with the shunned sworn-in celebration in mid-August 2015. An also for the reports of torture that the police and security organizations are doing as well in his presidency as well, which isn’t a beautiful view. Peace.
AFR 16/2298/2015 – ‘“JUST TELL ME WHAT TO CONFESS TO”, TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENT BY BURUNDI’S POLICE AND INTELLIGENCE SERVICE SINCE APRIL 2015’ (24.08.2015) – Amnesty International
CAT/C/BDI/CO/2 – ‘Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Burundi’, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Committee on Torture (12.12.2014) – United Nations
Human Rights Monitor Series – ‘COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE 37TH SESSION BURUNDI, INITIAL REPORT’ (2006), International Service for Human Rights
‘BURUNDI UNDER REVIEW BY UNITED NATIONS UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW: RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING JUSTICE MATTERS’, Commonwealth Human Rights Intiative
USAID – ‘BURUNDI POLICY REFORM FINAL REPORT October 2007 – September 2011 (12.09.2011) – This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International Development. It was prepared by Chemonics International.
USAID – ‘VICTIMS OF TORTURE FUND PORTFOLIO SYNOPSIS 2005–2006’, Victims of Torture Fund, U.S. Agency for International Development
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General notes with great concern the continuing deterioration of the security environment in Burundi following an electoral period marked by violence and the violation of human rights, including the right to life.
In this context, the Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing of General Adolphe Nshimirimana on 2 August. He welcomes President [Pierre] Nkurunziza’s message to the nation to remain calm and to the competent authorities to expeditiously investigate this assassination in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. He calls on the Burundian authorities to investigate diligently other recent political assassinations.
The Secretary-General renews his appeal to all Burundians to resume an inclusive dialogue without delay and peacefully settle their differences under the facilitation of President [Yoweri Kaguta] Museveni as mandated by the East African Community.
The Secretary-General remains committed to supporting peace consolidation and conflict prevention efforts in Burundi.
Today the results came from the Electoral Commission in Burundi wasn’t unexpected. We all knew that would happen. It’s not really much to say. We all expected it and there wasn’t really much news value in that. Other than the Government of Burundi will go into an uncertain future. With People of Burundi will not recognizing that Pierre Nkurunzia is again for the third time president of the Country. The president can use the High Court judgement, but that doesn’t stop the foreign pressure or local dissidence. The situation will be fragmented and sore wound after the violence want give more legitimacy to the President of Burundi. EAC had Election Observation Mission on the Election Day and has followed the election apparently. While the African Union and European Union suspended their missions and observers to it. So that they wanted to show that they didn’t’ want legitimacy to the actions of the president. There been oppressive actions towards the opposition in the country after the Coup d’état in the country. I think that the Preliminary Statement of the Election is worthy for everybody who follow Burundi show read it. Enjoy. Peace.
The East African Community deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the Republic of Burundi for the 21 July 2015 Presidential Election. Hon. Abubakar Zein, a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), was the Head of the Mission and has released the Preliminary Statement of the Mission as below:
The East African Community Election Observation Mission to the Presidential Election of 21 July 2015 in the Republic of Burundi – PRELIMINARY STATEMENT, Bujumbura, 23 July 2015-
- In response to the invitation by the Independent National Electoral Commission of Burundi (CENI); the Standing Decision of the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers to observe elections in all EAC Partner States and the Decision of the 3rd EAC Emergency Summit on Burundi of 6 July 2015, the EAC deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to the Republic of Burundi for the 21 July 2015 Presidential Election.
- The EAC EOM was led by Hon. Abubakar Zein, a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and comprised 25 members drawn from the EALA, National Electoral Management Bodies, National Human Rights Commissions, Ministries of EAC Affairs, and Civil Society Organizations from four EAC Partner States namely the Republic of Kenya, the Republic of Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda. The Mission deployed seven teams to observe the polling and counting processes in Bujumbura, Gitega, Ngozi, Kirundo, Mwaro, Muramvya, Karuzi, Muyinga, Rumonge, Bururi and Makamba Provinces.
- The EAC has followed the Burundi electoral process since January 2015 through consultative sessions by the EAC Eminent Persons (PEP), Pre-Election Assessment Mission (PEMi), the EAC Council of Ministers and EAC Emergency Summits. Through these initiatives, the EAC, while appreciating the state of affairs, identified challenges facing the electoral process and made appropriate recommendations. The Mission’s findings are also informed by the report of the aforementioned initiatives.
- This statement contains preliminary findings, recommendations and conclusions made by the Mission based on independent observation, interaction with electoral stakeholders including the CENI, political parties, civil society organizations, security agencies, and the media, among others. As the electoral process is still ongoing, this statement limits itself to the assessment made up to the polling and results counting processes. In due course, the Mission will avail a more detailed final report on the electoral process in Burundi through the EAC policy organs.
- PRELIMINARY FINDINGS
General Political Context
- The political context of the 2015 presidential election has been characterized by the controversy surrounding the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidature for a third term. This was viewed by some actors as a violation of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 2000 and the Constitution 2005 of Burundi. Other actors maintained that the first term did not count thus, the incumbent qualifies to vie in the 2015 presidential election. The incumbent’s nomination on 25 April 2015 sparked demonstrations in Bujumbura and some parts of the country which turned violent.
- The confirmation of the incumbent’s candidature by the Constitutional Court resulted in the deterioration of security situation and the prevailing political impasse in the country. There were persistent violent protests and an attempted coup d’état on 13 May 2015 which resulted in scores of deaths and deterioration of the human rights situation in the country. From the foregoing background, there was an influx of refugees estimated to be around 150,000, some of whom were registered voters, to neighboring countries including the Republic of Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Successive dialogues mediated by the Joint International Facilitation Team comprising the EAC, African Union, United Nations and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) were convened between Government, opposition representatives and other stakeholders in order to resolve the political stalemate. There were three successive EAC Emergency Summits on the situation in Burundi, and subsequent appointment of President Yoweri Museveni of the Republic of Uganda to facilitate a High Level Political Dialogue in a bid to resolve the political stalemate. The Mission noted that the Political Dialogue was postponed on the eve of the election without consensus.
- The presidential election which was initially scheduled to take place on 26 June 2015 was postponed to 15 July 2015 following a request by the EAC 2nd Emergency Summit and eventually to 21 July 2015. The 3rd EAC Emergency Summit requested for a delay until 30 July 2015 in order to allow for dialogue and consensus building on contentious issues among all the stakeholders.
- Lack of political consensus on key issues on the electoral process during the High Level Dialogue including the election calendar, insecurity, the candidature of the incumbent president, return of refugees, media freedoms and civil liberties, perpetuated uncertainty and fear. This state of affairs contributed to some opposition candidates withdrawing from the presidential race.
Legal and Institutional Framework
- The 2015 presidential election is governed by the Constitution 2005 and a set of laws regulations and decrees. The Constitution provides for fundamental rights and freedoms which are important for the participation of citizens in the electoral process. Article 8 of the Constitution provides for election by equal and universal suffrage. The suffrage is also extended to the citizens in diaspora thereby guaranteeing their enfranchisement.
- Whilst the framework is adequate for the conduct of democratic elections in Burundi, there have been violations of the fundamental civil and political rights that limited citizen participation in the electoral process. For instance, the attempted coup d’état heightened the closure of several private media outlets thereby impacting on the rights to freedom of expression. Similarly, this denied the citizens an alternative source of information that is critical in making an informed choice in the election.
- The amendment of the Electoral Code 2014, introduced the use of a single ballot paper that replaced the multiple ballot system. The Mission is of the opinion that this reform is a positive measure as it is able to contribute to enhancing the secrecy of the ballot as well as the overall cost of administration of elections but needed to be accompanied by adequate voter education.
- The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) is the election management body in Burundi comprising five commissioners who are appointed by the President subject to approval of the National Assembly. While CENI enjoys constitutional independence, it does not enjoy the confidence of a substantial proportion of stakeholders. The desertion of the Vice President and one Commissioner as well as withdrawal of members of the Catholic Church from the CENI structures in May 2015 impacted on public’s perception on the credibility of CENI.
- The Constitutional Court has the jurisdiction to arbitrate election disputes for Presidential and legislative elections in Burundi. It is also tasked with announcement of final election results for presidential election. While the Court constitutionally enjoys independence and impartiality, the desertion of the Vice President of the Court impacted on public’s perception on the credibility of the Court.
Voter Registration and Voters’ Roll
- There were a total of 3,849,728 registered voters for the 2015 elections. The first voter registration exercise was conducted between November and December 2014. The CENI made efforts to enfranchise more voters in March 2015 through a partial voter registration upon the request of political parties and also allowed for inspection of the voters’ roll by the parties.
- The Mission noted that the two-step voter registration process was operationally cumbersome. The registrants were issued with a récépissé (waiting slip) and were later to be issued with a voter’s card. The two-step process affected the distribution of the voter cards as the cards had not been distributed by 26 May 2015, being the initial date of parliamentary and communal elections before the postponement of polls.
- All political parties and candidates should be allowed to campaign freely as per the law and with due regard to expression of fundamental freedoms of association, assembly and speech in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to the Electoral Code, the election campaign lasts for 14 days.
- The campaign environment was generally tense and characterized by fear and uncertainty. The political stalemate surrounding the candidature of the incumbent president, concerns relating to the security of candidates and their supporters and the subsequent postponement of polls impacted the electoral process and implementation of the campaign calendar.
- Some candidates to the presidential election participated in the political dialogue aimed at resolving the political stalemate, a process that took place during the campaign period. This impacted on the candidates’ ability to solicit for votes and for the voters to make informed decisions on leaders of their choice. This uncertainty was further accentuated by the reported withdrawal of some candidates from the presidential race, a few days before the polls.
- An already constrained media in a shrinking democratic space was further affected by the attempted coup d état. The media environment during the electoral process was affected by the ongoing political stalemate. During the period of the failed coup d’état, five private media outlets were destroyed on 13 and 14 May 2015, namely, Radio and Television REMA, Radio and Television Renaissance, Radio Isanganiro, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), and Radio Sans Frontiere Bonesha FM. The limited access to alternative sources of information apart from the State broadcaster, especially during the electioneering period, limited space for pluralistic ideas and impacted upon the playing field among political competitors. This in turn constrained the options for voters to be adequately informed on the electoral process and make informed choices.
- The Presidential election in Burundi was held against a backdrop of a tense and violent pre-election period. April to June 2015 witnessed some of the most violent incidents, including a failed coup d’état. Arising from the observed pattern of behaviour over the period, and following a risk assessment mapping, it was noted that the Provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza and Kayanza had experienced unprecedented violence over the three weeks preceding the presidential polls.
- On the eve of the polls, there were incidents of shooting, grenade attack and subsequent reports of three deaths in Bujumbura which heightened fear among the population. It was also noted that within Bujumbura city, the following areas were restive with unpredictable security environment: Cibitoke, Mutakura, Buterere, Ngagara, Jabe, Nyakabiga, Kanyosha and Musaga. The Mission did not deploy observers in the above captioned regions as a result of the unpredictable security environment. However, there was relative calm in other parts of the country.
Civic and Voter Education
- The conduct of civic and voter education had challenges and was exacerbated by insufficient funding. The withdrawal of funding by development partners impacted on the voter education which led to reprioritization of resources by the Government of Burundi. In this regard, the Mission noted that voter education initiatives were minimal despite CENI having introduced a single ballot paper of which voters needed to be adequately educated.
Polling and Counting Processes
- The EAC observers visited a total of 80 polling stations. The polling process was generally calm and peaceful. Whereas most stations opened on time, some opened later than the stipulated time of 6:00am. In some stations, voting had not started as late as 10.00 am. In Bujumbura, anxiety over insecurity and late arrival of election materials impacted on the timely opening of the polls.
- In most polling stations visited, polling personnel were present and election materials were in adequate quantity. The polling personnel generally managed the polling process in a professional manner. Apart from the CNDD-FDD party agents who were present in all stations visited by the EAC Observers, there was a notable absence of party agents of most opposition political parties despite the obligatory requirement by Electoral Code.
- Beside the EAC observers, the Mission noted the presence of domestic observers and international observers from the MENUB, ICGLR, as well as embassies of Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya. Most polling stations closed at 4pm as stipulated in the Electoral Code. The counting process took place immediately after the closure of the polls and registered no incident in all polling stations visited by EAC observers.
- The EAC observers noted that the voter turnout was generally ranged from low to average in most polling stations visited.
- Based on the above findings, the EAC Election Observation Mission to the 21 July 2015 presidential election makes the following recommendations:
a) To All National Stakeholders:
Pursue an all-inclusive and honest dialogue in order to find a sustainable solution to the political impasse prevailing in Burundi.
b) To the Government: Ensure that peace and security is guaranteed for all citizens of Burundi; Undertake measures to ensure that law and order is maintained in a manner that uphold respect for human rights;
iii. Ensure that there is adequate funding for the conduct of elections;
– Undertake measures to ensure safe return and reintegration of refugees in Burundi;
– Undertake capacity building measures to strengthen and enhance the efficiency of governance institutions to promote sustainable democratic development;
– Enhance the capacity of security agencies in respecting the fundamental human rights of the citizens while maintaining law order;
vii. Undertake measures to remove restrictions on media freedom and allow private media.
c) To Parliament:
– Pursue legal and institutional reforms aimed at safeguarding the independence of the CENI and the Judiciary;
– Delink the registration of political parties from the Ministry of Interior.
d) To CENI:
– Consider merging of voter registration and issuance of voters cards in order to enhance operational efficiency and minimize the challenges experienced in the 2015 electoral process;
– Undertake voter education in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to enhance public awareness and participation in electoral processes.
e) To the East African Community:
Continue engagement with all stakeholders to find a sustainable solution to the prevailing political impasse in the country.
f) To the International Community:
Sustain engagement with the Government and all national stakeholders in order to address the prevailing political, social and economic challenges in the country.
The people of Burundi have enjoyed relative peace since the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 2000, which constitutes the bedrock for building democracy, sustainable peace and development in the country. The Mission notes that the electoral period has been characterised by anxiety and uncertainty. The Mission notes with concern that successive efforts to build consensus through inclusive dialogue among Burundi stakeholders have not been successful.
- The Mission noted that there was relative peace on the polling day. However, the principle of choice was generally hampered by among others, insecurity ( a general feeling of fear and despondency in some parts of the country), confinement of democratic space, civil liberties including freedom of speech, assembly, media, campaigning and the boycott by opposition parties.
- The electoral process fell short of the principles and standards for holding free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible elections as stipulated in various international, continental as well as the EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation.
- The EAC Observation Mission urges all stakeholders to maintain calm and to re-engage in candid and inclusive dialogue in order to find sustainable solution to the political impasse prevailing in Burundi.
- The Mission would like to thank and extend its profound gratitude to the people and the Government of Burundi, CENI and MENUB for their cooperation during the mission.
Issued at Royal Palace Hotel, Bujumbura this 23 July 2015
Hon. Zein Abubakar
Head of Mission