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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora