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Burundi to Sign Agreement With AU Over Human Rights Concerns

FILE - Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe, shown June 24, 2015, says the administration welcomes an investigation by African Union officials.

Burundi is to sign a memorandum of understanding with African Union officials following concerns the government is violating citizens’ rights.

Burundi Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe denied accusations that his government uses state security agencies, as well as supporters, to violate the rights of opponents. He says the administration in Bujumbura is cooperating with African Union (AU) officials, who are currently in the country to investigate allegations of abuse.

The government is committed to protecting the rights of citizens regardless of their political affiliation, Nyamitwe says.

“I, again, don't understand that while we are using the language of openness, others are in the business of blackmailing the government, calling the government names, which I believe is not going in the right direction,” he said. “Now as far as we are concerned, it is up to the AU monitors through the AU military experts to tell their part of the story. But as far as we are concerned, we have done our best."

Nyamitwe's comments follow criticism by opposition groups that the government has been engaged in violating citizens’ rights. Fueling this claim is the March 31 death of former Rwandan Ambassador Jacques Bihozagara in prison in Bujumbura.

Critics of the government say the death is an example of the administration's disinterest in protecting the rights of citizens. They demand an independent inquiry into Bihozagara’s death, as well as complete access to international human rights monitors and the United Nations police in investigating rights’ violations in the country.

Nyamitwe dismissed critics’ claims.

"These are the same people who … asked the Security Council to get involved in Burundian affairs,” he said. “Now that the Security Council has come up with a resolution, they are the very first people to reject the resolution. … they don't know what they are talking about.”