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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.