News / Africa

    Human Rights Watch Warns of Shrinking Political Space in Burundi

    Michael Onyiego

    Human Rights Watch Warns of Shrinking Political Space in Burundi
    Human Rights Watch Warns of Shrinking Political Space in Burundi

     

    After a flawed series of elections in Burundi, Human Rights Watch says the ruling party has used its victory to shut out opposition and restrict free expression.

    From May until September, Burundi held a series of regional and national elections that international observers hoped would cap its transition to a full-fledged democracy. Emerging from a 16-year civil war in 2009, a relatively open climate for opposition parties and media, as well as the participation of former rebel group National Liberation Forces - FNL - provided encouraging signs.

    But the ruling party's large victory in the May municipal polls triggered claims of fraud by the opposition and a general boycott of the process. A series of grenade attacks began in mid June and on June 28, incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza ran unopposed in the presidential election. Opposition parties gradually re-entered the remaining legislative and communal elections, but the end result was a resounding victory for the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

    According to Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal, there was a hope that the Nkurunziza might use his mandate to reform the country's political space.

    "Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. We have seen that there has been a narrowing of space, a closure to dissident voices," said Ghoshal.  "This is concerning because it has really reached a point in which there are certain people in government who consider the political opposition as well as civil society and the media to be enemies."

    Ghoshal is the author of the latest Human Rights Watch report Closing Doors? which examines the political developments in Burundi since the beginning of nationwide elections.

    The report details serious rights violations both during and after the campaign, including the torture of opposition members from multiple parties and the arrest and continued detention of journalists such as Jean Claude Kavumbagu. Kavumbagu was arrested in July for an article which questioned the competency of the Burundian Security Forces.
    The report warns that Burundi - which has recently emerged from a civil war - is still vulnerable to political instability.

    Most troubling is the recent government takeover of main opposition party FNL. The group was, as recently as 2009, engaging in armed conflict with the government. Fears of arrest during the elections sent FNL leader Agathon Rwasa into hiding.

    A Burundian voter casts her vote at a polling station in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura (File Photo - 23 Jul 2010)
    A Burundian voter casts her vote at a polling station in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura (File Photo - 23 Jul 2010)


    In the absence of Rwasa, a minority group of FNL members held an extraordinary session replacing the party leadership. The move was deemed illegal under the Party's charter but was immediately recognized by the Burundian Ministry of Interior. According to the report, the new FNL is now essentially a satellite of the ruling party.

    "This is something that we consider not only anti-democratic and illegal but also dangerous," added Ghoshal. "The government spent years negotiating with Rwasa, trying to bring him into the political process. Suddenly, with one stroke of the pen he is no longer in the political process at all."

    But the report says violence can easily be avoided by enacting key reforms. Among other recommendations Human Rights Watch is urging the Burundian government to reverse the recognition of the new FNL leadership, release or bring charges against prisoners such as Kavumbagu and establish commissions to investigate the extrajudicial torture and killing that have plagued the country.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora