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Govt and ruling party continued to repress opposition. Mayor of capital Bujumbura 2 March banned opening of national HQ of new opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) in Bujumbura, planned for next day, citing “security reasons”; allowed opening 10 March at which representatives of opposition, ruling party and international community attended. In Matana commune, Bururi province, police detained for one day seventeen CNL members travelling to opening. Soldiers and police 11 March barricaded off area around CNL national HQ. Ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure arrested and/or beat at least twelve CNL members in Bubanza, Ngozi and Cibitoke provinces 6-16 March. A dozen bodies found late Feb in Lake Rweru that separates Burundi and Rwanda; local authorities said bodies had floated down river that comes from Rwanda, Rwanda denied responsibility. Four bodies found in two rivers in Cibitoke province 19 March. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights closed its office in Burundi at govt’s request 5 March, following govt’s suspension of cooperation with it in Oct 2016 accusing it of “complicity with … Burundi’s enemies”. After govt refused to withdraw more than 400 of the 1,000 troops African Union (AU) demanded it withdraw from AU Mission in Somalia in Feb, army spokesman 15 March conceded that 600 more troops would return to Burundi soon.
East African Community (EAC) leaders pledged to consult further on next step to resolve political standoff between govt and opposition, govt refused to repatriate soldiers from African Union Mission in Somalia, and Congolese army fought Burundian rebels in eastern DR Congo. At EAC heads of state summit 1 Feb facilitator of inter-Burundian dialogue, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, delivered his final report; it denounced boycotts by govt and opposition in exile of different rounds, lack of EAC summit dedicated to crisis, unclear funding mechanisms and lack of coordination among regional and international stakeholders. EAC leaders pledged to consult internally to decide next step and designated presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to head mediation. Govt 14 Feb approved creation of new party, National Congress for Freedom (CNL), by opposition leader Agathon Rwasa. Attorney General and police spokesman 15 Feb accused civil society activist in exile Pacifique Nininahazwe of instigating BBC documentary “Kamwe Kamwe – Inside Burundi’s Killing Machine” released Dec 2018 allegedly to incriminate authorities at International Criminal Court. During visit by Somali President Farmajo 18-19 Feb, Farmajo and President Nkurunziza called for heads of state summit of countries contributing troops to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As part of AMISOM drawdown, 1,000 of some 5,400 Burundian troops were supposed to leave Somalia by end-Feb; some 400 returned home 21-23 Feb, but govt refused to repatriate more, denouncing “injustice” of withdrawing only Burundian soldiers, claiming withdrawal would endanger remaining troops and threatening to repatriate all its troops. Following flare-up of fighting between Burundian military and Burundian rebels in eastern DR Congo in Jan, Burundian military 3 Feb reportedly began withdrawing from Congo. Congolese army 5 Feb reportedly launched offensive against Burundian rebel group RED-TABARA in South Kivu province, forcing latter to retreat within South Kivu.
Fighting again flared between military and rebels in eastern DRC and coalition of opposition parties in exile continued to collapse. Seventeen people reportedly killed in Kaberagure, Uvira territory in eastern DRC near Burundian border 16 Jan in fighting between, on one side, rebels including from RED-TABARA and National Liberation Forces (FNL) groups backed by local Mai-Mai militants and, on other, army and ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing backed by different Mai-Mai militants. Grenade attack in bar in capital Bujumbura 27 Jan wounded at least eight people. Govt 8 Jan confirmed its refusal to dialogue with opposition politicians it accuses of orchestrating 2015 coup attempt and asked member states of regional bloc East African Community to extradite them to Burundi. Four opposition parties and former first VP Frederic Bamvuginyumvira withdrew from coalition of opposition parties in exile CNARED Giriteka throughout month blaming coalition’s presidency for diverting from platform’s main mission, namely reestablishment of 2005 constitution and 2000 Arusha peace agreement. Ahead of 2020 general elections, leaders of nineteen parties (33 are recognised by law) analysed draft law amending electoral code in Gitega 4 Jan; opposition parties not invited. Some politicians criticised limited time available and called meeting “façade”. Proposed amendments roughly tripled presidential candidates’ deposit and stipulated that independent parliamentary candidates would have to win at least 40% of votes in their constituencies to be elected. Govt 3 Jan said 84 of 130 foreign NGOs previously operating in country had registered before 31 Dec deadline and fulfilled new conditions including ethnic quota for staff; some NGOs that reject conditions began to leave.
Parliament and protesters rejected African Union’s call for restraint, as relations between President Nkurunziza and Ugandan President Museveni – mediator of Burundian crisis – deteriorated and tensions with neighbouring Rwanda continued to rise. Govt pursued legal proceedings relating to assassination of first elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, in Oct 1993: four retired Tutsi army officers arrested late Nov and attorney general 30 Nov issued international arrest warrants for seventeen people including former President Pierre Buyoya, now African Union (AU) representative in Mali. AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki 1 Dec called for restraint on all sides. National Assembly 5 Dec rejected Faki’s statement, calling on international organisations to stop interfering in internal affairs. Demonstrators in capital Bujumbura protested against Faki’s remarks and called for arrest of Buyoya and other suspects. Following Nkurunziza’s refusal to attend East African Community (EAC) heads of state summit planned for 30 Nov, Nkurunziza 4 Dec wrote to EAC president and mediator of Burundian crisis, Ugandan President Museveni, criticising final report of facilitator, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, and demanding extraordinary summit to find solution to “open conflict between Burundi and Rwanda”. Museveni replied urging Nkurunziza to discuss with opposition in exile. EAC summit re-scheduled to 27 Dec but again postponed, possibly to margins of Jan AU summit. Govt 21 Dec decided to make Gitega in centre political capital instead of Bujumbura in west. In southern Rwanda, unidentified assailants 15 Dec set fire to three vehicles in Nyamagabe district which borders Burundi, killing at least two civilians; Rwandan army said it pursued attackers into forest bordering Burundi.
Military launched reprisal attacks against armed opposition group in eastern DR Congo (DRC) and President Nkurunziza refused to meet visiting African Union (AU) official and attend regional summit. Following attacks by armed opposition group RED-TABARA based in eastern DRC on military position in west late Oct, army launched attacks in DRC 1-2 Nov reportedly damaging rebels’ camps and forcing them to flee. Govt denied incursion into DRC. Congolese security forces arrested Burundian soldier at Sange, in DRC’s South Kivu province and reportedly handed him over to Burundian army on border 6 Nov, and arrested three other Burundian soldiers for secretly entering Lusenda refugee camp, which shelters Burundian refugees. After govt, ruling party and allied parties late Oct boycotted fifth and final round of inter-Burundian dialogue aimed at resolving political crisis triggered by Nkurunziza’s 2015 decision to stand for third term, facilitator former Tanzanian President Mkapa said he had concluded his mission and reported to mediator Ugandan President Museveni. Govt rejected raft of reforms proposed by opposition parties who attended dialogue. Opposition and civil society called on AU and UN to take over process. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaël Chergui and former CAR President Samba Panza met govt officials in Bujumbura 5-7 Nov to encourage authorities to take part in inclusive dialogue; Nkurunziza refused to meet them, citing busy agenda. Govt did not attend East African Community (EAC) ministerial meeting 28 Nov and Nkurunziza refused to attend or send representative to EAC heads of state summit planned for 30 Nov-1 Dec; summit postponed sine die as Burundi’s absence meant quorum not reached. Govt 8 Nov rejected Sept application by main in-country opposition leader Agathon Rwasa to create new party, citing latter’s intention to use acronyms, emblem and motto of existing party. Govt 5 Nov said it had re-registered 25 NGOs following National Security Council’s late Sept suspension of all NGOs.
Govt, ruling party and allied parties boycotted fifth round of inter-Burundian dialogue aimed at resolving political crisis triggered by President Nkurunziza’s 2015 decision to stand for third term. African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council 2 Oct reaffirmed support for East African Community (EAC) team facilitating talks, said AU would reduce number of human rights observers and military experts in Burundi and called on EU to lift sanctions. Govt supported facilitation team’s proposed agenda, focused exclusively on preparations for 2020 elections, while opposition expressed desire to include other issues including fallout from Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for third term. Eleven nominally opposition but in reality pro-govt parties 15 Oct conditioned their participation on strict respect for agenda. Opposition party Sahwanya FRODEBU 19 Oct withdrew from coalition of opposition parties in exile CNARED. Govt boycotted fifth round of talks 25-29 Oct in Arusha, Tanzania reiterating that it would not take part in dialogue including those accused of plotting 2015 failed coup. EU 25 Oct extended travel bans and asset freezes against four govt officials until 31 Oct 2019 citing lack of progress in resolving stalemate. National Security Council late Sept suspended foreign NGOs for three months starting 1 Oct on grounds that they failed to respect Jan 2017 law on foreign NGOs, but gave no details on violations. Govt 2 Oct said to be able to resume work NGOs must deposit third of budget in Central Bank, sign agreement with foreign affairs ministry, agree to support national development plan and adhere to ethnic quotas for employees. Three International Rescue Committee staff arrested in Muyinga 10 Oct for violating ban. Unidentified armed group night of 7-8 Oct attacked Murwi commune, killing two; local authorities blamed Rwanda.
Representatives of East African Community (EAC), regional bloc mediating inter-Burundian dialogue, after meeting govt, ruling party and opposition in Burundi in Aug, met exiled opposition coalition CNARED in Brussels 6-7 Sept; latter committed to take part in forthcoming fifth round of talks in Ugandan capital Kampala, reiterating that 2000 Arusha agreement must be basis of dialogue. Representatives of CNARED and Burundi-based opposition met in Entebbe, Uganda 21-23 Sept to forge common position ahead of talks and sent common memorandum to EAC facilitation. Since new constitution prohibits coalitions of independents from running in elections, Agathon Rwasa, former leader of opposition party National Liberation Forces (FNL) and leader of opposition coalition Amizero y’Abarundi, 12 Sept formed new party called National Front for Liberty Amizero y’Abarundi (FNL Amizero y’Abarundi). UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi presented main findings of new report in Geneva 5 Sept and full report in 17 Sept session boycotted by Burundian delegation; report states that serious human rights violations have continued in 2017 and 2018 and for first time implicates President Nkurunziza in incitement to violence. Ministers criticised report and govt denied its allegations. Govt organised demonstrations against report in capital Bujumbura and elsewhere 15 Sept and declared all three UN commissioners personae non gratae. UN Human Rights Council 27 Sept voted in favour of African bloc’s proposal to send three experts to Burundi to report on human rights situation; Burundi supported plan in bid to render Commission of Inquiry unnecessary. But next day council also voted in favour of EU-proposed resolution to extend Commission of Inquiry’s mandate for one year. Unidentified armed group attacked Gatumba on border with DR Congo 14 Sept, one policeman injured. Unidentified armed group reportedly beheaded local leader of ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing and shot dead his wife at Buyumpu in north west near Rwandan border 18 Sept; govt spokesman said group came from and returned to Rwanda.
Opposition boycotted govt’s initiative setting out path toward 2020 elections and govt agreed with conditions to take part in fifth round of inter-Burundian dialogue in Sept. At govt’s invitation, registered political parties gathered at Kayanza in north 3 Aug to compose roadmap to 2020 elections; twenty signed document committing to promote democratic culture, reinforce security for free and fair vote, revise legal framework and appoint new electoral commission leadership. Two opposition parties attended but did not sign. Opposition coalition Amizero y’Abarundi and two other opposition parties did not attend. Amizero y’Abarundi and exiled opposition coalition CNARED criticised initiative as way to render void inter-Burundian dialogue mediated by regional bloc East African Community (EAC). UN Special Envoy Michel Kafando 9 Aug asked UN Security Council to call on all sides to take part in fifth round of inter-Burundian dialogue to reach political settlement. Representatives of EAC mediation team met authorities and opposition in capital Bujumbura 16-17 Aug and agreed to hold new round of talks in Ugandan capital, Kampala in Sept. UN Security Council 22 Aug criticised slow progress in talks and urged parties to reach agreement well before 2020 elections. In session boycotted by Amizero y’Abarundi, national assembly 29 Aug approved new electoral commission members. Burundians protested outside Tanzanian embassy in Brussels 10 Aug against perceived pressure by Tanzanian authorities on Burundian refugees to return home.
Govt 5 July began collecting contributions from citizens to pay for elections in 2020; trade unions criticised multiple contributions demanded by govt. Tensions rose at University of Burundi: police and student members of Imbonerakure (ruling party’s youth wing) 2 July arrested three student members of Agathon Rwasa-led branch of opposition National Forces of Liberation; tracts threatening students who were resisting joining ruling party found at university 9 July. European Parliament 5 July adopted resolution heavily critical of govt actions and calling for halt to Burundian participation in African Union’s and UN peacekeeping operations. Tensions rose between Burundi and Rwanda following several cross-border attacks in southern Rwanda: unidentified armed group from Burundi 1 July raided Cyamuzi village in southern Rwanda near Burundi border, attack follows two similar raids in June; Rwandan President Kagame 13 July asserted army’s readiness to fight off any attack.
Following constitutional referendum in May, President Nkurunziza 7 June enacted new constitution which would potentially allow him to stay in power until 2034 and during ceremony made surprise announcement that he would not run in 2020 election. EU, U.S. and Belgium welcomed announcement and called on govt to improve governance and open political space. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa free trade area late May decided not to hold its summit in capital Bujumbura 1-10 June as planned, but in Zambia in July, reportedly because some delegates were uncomfortable with Burundian govt’s actions. Authorities 22 June arrested four French nationals and senior Burundian official Donatien Ndayishimiye for fraud; all four French released and left country 30 June, Ndayishimiye remained in prison end month.
Yes win in constitutional referendum could allow President Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034 and undermine ethnic power balance; violence also escalated with attack in north west leaving 26 civilians dead. In referendum on revised constitution 17 May, amid ongoing harassment and intimidation of No voters and those opposed to referendum, 73% voted Yes. Changes extend presidential terms from five to seven years and may allow Nkurunziza to seek two more terms from 2020. France and U.S. condemned climate of fear and repression. Campaigning officially began 1 May; electoral commission 8 May published revised draft constitution. CNARED opposition coalition in exile reiterated call for boycott. Govt criminalised calls for abstention, punishable by up to three years in prison. Catholic Church 3 May said timing of referendum was not right as some Burundians suppress free speech and people “do not dare say what they think”. Govt 4 May suspended BBC and Voice of America for six months for breaching media laws and warned Radio France Internationale and local radio station to verify sources more rigorously; govt 23 May said it was ready to lift suspensions. Unidentified assailants 12 May killed 26 people in Cibitoke (north west) seemingly targeting families of police officers; govt said attackers were “terrorists coming from and returning to” DR Congo. Vote took place 17 May largely peacefully, but opposition coalition Amizero y’Abarundi denounced security forces forcing some people to polling stations, ruling party’s youth wing Imbonerakure for violating secrecy of votes, and polling station officials for chasing opposition monitors from polling stations. Electoral commission 21 May announced victory for Yes camp. Amizero y’Abarundi 31 May petitioned Constitutional Court to invalidate results.
Political violence could rise around 17 May referendum on constitutional changes that would allow President Nkurunziza to run in presidential elections until 2034. Opposition coalition in exile late March reiterated call for boycott. Three opposition parties in country, FNL, FRODEBU and UPRONA, 17 April released memorandum addressed to UN Sec-Gen Guterres, African Union (AU) Chair and Rwandan President Kagame, and AU Commission Chair Faki, urging them to stop revision of constitution. Catholic Church for first time 10 April criticised govt for forcing citizens to contribute toward funding vote. AU and UN 16 April criticised govt’s repeated rejection of proposed dialogue with opposition and its suspension from talks. Next day govt said it would not withdraw from talks. 2,500 followers of spiritual leader “Zebyia” returned early April from Rwanda to Burundi following disputes with Rwandan authorities about registration there.
President Nkurunziza 18 March set date of constitutional referendum for 17 May; his decree also stipulated that absolute majority (50% plus one vote) would be needed to amend constitution, that parties and individuals must register with electoral commission by 6 April to take part in campaigning and that campaign will begin two weeks before vote. Opposition denounced double standards as ruling party CNDD-FDD has been campaigning for months and dozens of opposition supporters arrested. Main opposition coalition in exile CNARED, civil society activists and journalists gathered in Belgium 9-11 March to found “Forum Citoyen” platform to block referendum. CNDD-FDD bestowed on Nkurunziza title of “eternal supreme guide” during meeting in Buye, Ngozi region 9-10 March. In run-up to referendum, regime maintained intimidation of potential “no” voters, with reports of violence, imprisonment and killings. Security officers detained president of opposition group RANAC (National Gathering for Change) in Gitega 26 March, released him next day. UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi 13 March reported restrictions on civil liberties, harassment by public officials and members of Imbonerakure (CNDD-FDD youth wing), as well as arrests, executions and disappearances between Sept 2017 and March 2018. Court 8 March sentenced three civil rights activists to ten years in prison for planning human rights workshop which prosecutor considered “likely to disrupt security”. Following presidential pardon end 2017, govt 16 March freed 740 prisoners including 450 imprisoned for taking part in mid-2015 uprising against Nkurunziza after he said he would run for third term.
In run-up to May referendum on constitutional changes that would allow President Nkurunziza to run in presidential elections until 2034, govt imprisoned opponents and incited violence: video on social media showed local official in Butihinda commune in north east calling on population to denounce “No” campaigners, promising their teeth would be broken. UN Secretary-General’s report 6 Feb criticised referendum for ignoring will of opposition; Burundian mission to UN called report violation of sovereignty and thousands demonstrated against it in Bujumbura 10 Feb incited by mayor. Registration for referendum and 2020 elections took place 8-17 Feb, some people reportedly forced to register; electoral commission 20 Feb said 5,000,742 people registered. After East African Community (EAC) summit 23 Feb, EAC facilitator of inter-Burundian talks, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, denied rumours that he would resign; Mkapa to continue EAC mediation, despite lack of dialogue between govt and opposition. UN refugee agency 6 Feb launched appeal to sustain the 430,000 Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries. UN Development Programme 20 Feb expected one in three Burundians to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018 (20% increase on 2017 number).
23 civil society organisations early Jan launched “Teshwa Ute’’ (stop) campaign against referendum set for May on constitutional changes that would allow President Nkurunziza to run in presidential elections until 2034; Forum for Strengthening Civil Society 16 Jan reported that authorities had arrested 60 people opposed to constitutional change in Jan. Opposition groups in exile and in Burundi agreed in Kenyan capital Nairobi 27-28 Jan to work together against constitutional referendum. Opposition MPs and unions continued to protest against forced contributions toward 2020 elections. Guerrilla group National Forces of Liberation fighting against govt from bases along Burundi-DR Congo border 5 Jan suffered internal coup; Major General Felix Ntahonkiriye announced he was new chief of armed movement and Oscar Havyarimana became president of political branch. UN Human Rights Council 18 Jan said govt’s violations of human rights since Nkurunziza’s July 2015 re-election included torture, forced disappearances, sexual violence and extrajudicial killings. Almost 7,000 Congolese fled from South Kivu to Burundi late Jan due to fighting between army and Mai Mai militants.
Fourth round of Inter-Burundian dialogue in Arusha, Tanzania 28 Nov-8 Dec produced no agreement; main opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) and civil society in exile boycotted talks citing their insufficient inclusiveness and lack of security in Tanzania. President Nkurunziza 12 Dec officially launched campaign to change constitution in referendum planned for May 2018 so that he can stand for more terms. Ruling party youth militia Imbonerakure 3 Dec destroyed hotel owned by exiled CNARED president.
Fourth round of Inter-Burundian dialogue began in Arusha, Tanzania 28 Nov, to continue till 8 Dec; govt sent representative but opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law), to which govt refuses to talk, boycotted. After govt’s withdrawal from International Criminal Court (ICC) came into effect 27 Oct, ICC 9 Nov announced its decision to open investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Burundi between April 2015 and Oct 2017. ICC argued it has jurisdiction for crimes committed while Burundi was a member; govt rejected position. Presidents of Tanzania and Uganda condemned court’s move.
Opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) 14 Oct met UN envoy, former Burkina Faso President Kafando, and demanded dialogue with regime; govt refused to attend meeting with opposition planned for Oct. Cabinet 24 Oct approved bill proposing constitutional amendments that would allow President Nkurunziza to run for fourth term in 2020; new draft constitution to be put to referendum by Feb 2018. Tanzanian police 12 Oct found 40 firearms in Burundian refugee camp at Nduta, Tanzania. Ruling party CNDD-FDD 14 Oct organised rally in Bujumbura to protest alleged plot by Rwanda, Belgium and UN to destabilise country. Rebel group Popular Forces of Burundi (FPB) said security forces from Tanzania and Burundi arrested four of its members including leader Jeremie Ntiranyibagira in Ngara, Tanzania 21 Oct, who were next day extradited to Burundi; Burundi govt has not confirmed. Burundi’s membership of International Criminal Court ended 27 Oct after one year elapsed since govt notified court of decision to leave.
UN commission of inquiry 4 Sept released report detailing govt’s human rights violations including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and rape, concluding reasonable grounds to believe govt has committed crimes against humanity, urged International Criminal Court to investigate; unidentified armed assailants broke into compound of UN Human Rights office in capital Bujumbura 13 Sept. UN Human Rights Council 28 Sept passed resolution proposed by Africa group to send three experts to work with govt to pursue perpetrators of crimes; 29 Sept voted to extend for one year commission of inquiry, despite govt’s resistance. Ruling party CNDD-FDD held rally to protest against UN report 16 Sept. 500 refugees repatriated from Tanzania 27 Sept following agreement between Burundi and Tanzania. Four people including one in police uniform kidnapped opposition figure Léopold Habarugira in Bujumbura 12 Sept. Mediators 5 Sept said inter-Burundian dialogue expected to resume in Oct. Congolese security forces near Kamanyola, eastern DR Congo shot dead 39 Burundian refugees and injured about 100 protesting arrest of four fellow refugees. National Communication Council 28 Sept banned ten media outlets including radio and TV stations.
Unidentified assailants threw grenades in two bars in capital Bujumbura’s Buyenzi district 17 Aug killing at least three people. Talks held between representatives of regime (including security forces) and opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) 31 July-2 Aug in Helsinki under auspices of Finnish NGO Crisis Management Initiative; results undisclosed. UN Security Council 2 Aug expressed concern over humanitarian and political situation, urged govt to cease and reject violence; govt 5 Aug refuted allegations of abuses. Some 15,000 Burundian refugees in Nduta camp in Tanzania early Aug protested in front of UN refugee agency office over delays in repatriation; Tanzania, Burundi and UN refugee agency 31 Aug held talks on repatriation of refugees.
New round of talks between govt and opposition in Arusha, announced by office of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa early July, did not materialise. For first time since May 2015 coup attempt, representatives of regime and opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) met 31 July in Helsinki. Members of ruling party CNDD-FDD and its Imbonerakure youth militia demonstrated 15 July in Muramvya province in centre in support of fourth term for President Nkurunziza after 2020 elections. Grenade attack reportedly targeting coffee processing company chief at Gatara in Kayanza province in north 9 July killed at least five people, alleged target unhurt. Grenade attack by unidentified assailants targeting policemen 11 July in Bujumbura wounded four, another grenade attack 16 July in same area caused no harm. European Parliament 5 July voted to continue to suspend aid to govt. In first visit abroad since May 2015 coup attempt, Nkurunziza 20 July met Tanzanian President Magufuli in western Tanzania; both urged over 240,000 Burundian refugees living there to return home as, according to Magufuli, “country is in peace”. Interior minister 26-27 July went to DRC capital Kinshasa for govt’s authorisation to step up actions against armed opposition groups in South Kivu, eastern DRC.
EU early June said it had deposited in commercial banks funds for one year’s salary arrears for Burundian troops in African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on condition govt would not take 20% as it had previously; some soldiers claimed to have received only five months’ arrears. UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Burundi made second oral briefing to UN Human Rights Council 15 June pointing to persistent violations including extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearances by intelligence agency and police, sometimes assisted by ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth militia. Armed attacks in capital Bujumbura rose slightly. Violence included: grenade attack in Musaga district 14 June, killed two people; police 15 June shot dead suspected thief, unidentified gunmen killed civilian same day.
East African Community (EAC) regional bloc at 20 May summit asked EU to lift sanctions on Burundi so EAC could sign Economic Partnership Agreement with EU; EU ambassador to EAC said sanctions would remain as long as crisis persists. Chinese VP Li Yuanchao during 10-11 May visit agreed to provide govt $30mn budgetary support. Presidency 12 May appointed constitutional review committee; committee’s president and VP aligned to ruling party. Grenade attack 17 May in Muha commune of Bujumbura killed three members of Imbonerakure, ruling party’s youth militia. Congolese intelligence agents 17 May arrested Deutsche Welle’s Burundi correspondent for spying as he prepared to report on conditions of Burundian refugees at Kavinvara camp in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 22 May handed him over to Burundian police who released him next day.
Govt 4 April suspended opposition party Movement for Solidarity and Democracy for six months on grounds that it was violating constitution and forming rebel group. Govt 11 April rejected Feb request by mediator of inter-Burundian dialogue, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, that it grant provisional amnesty to alleged plotters of May 2015 coup so they can take part in talks. Students at Ecole normale supérieure du Burundi 19 April ended strike protesting against govt’s decision to replace scholarships with loans; other students ended strike 25 April.
Main opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) late Feb elected Charles Nditije as president. UNSC 9 March considered new UNSG report that says govt’s planned constitutional review to scrap presidential two-term limit would threaten regional security; govt rejected report. East African Community (EAC) mediator former Tanzanian President Mkapa 9 March told UNSC that he could not bring together irreconcilable positions of govt and opposition. Police colonel found dead in capital Bujumbura 20 March. Security services 29 March in Bujumbura arrested several students leading strike to protest govt’s scrapping of scholarships. Unidentified gunmen 12 March attacked Kabuga village, Rusizi district in western Rwanda killing two people before allegedly crossing into Burundi; Burundian army 13 March said no armed groups seen crossing between countries. Govt 26 March accused Rwanda of wanting to “export” genocide to Burundi.
East African Community (EAC) mediator former Tanzanian President Mkapa convened fourth session of inter-Burundian dialogue in Arusha, Tanzania 16-19 Feb but govt boycotted citing “irregularities” including that some invitees were sought for role in “disrupting Burundi’s security”; main opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) and representatives of ruling party CNDD-FDD and other pro-govt parties attended; govt 17 Feb asked Tanzania to arrest some opposition attendees. After talks three CNARED members switched support to govt and returned to Burundi. Rotation of Burundian troops in AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) began mid-Feb even though EU, AU and govt had not yet agreed on how to resume payment of soldiers. Insecurity persisted: unidentified assailants attacked civilians and police on four occasions in western regions bordering DRC 5-14 Feb.
East African Community (EAC) mediator former Tanzanian President Mkapa organised talks in Arusha, Tanzania 16 Jan between govt and some opposition politicians focusing on presidential term limit and formation of Govt of National Union; he did not invite main opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law), but six members attended individually. Court of Appeal 16 Jan disbarred from Bujumbura Bar Association three lawyers and suspended another who had condemned human rights abuses. Following presidential pardon, govt released over 500 prisoners 23 Jan; said it would release some 2,500 in total. Unidentified gunman shot dead Water and Environment Minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru 1 Jan in Bujumbura. Govt 10 Jan said it would withdraw troops from AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) following EU’s decision to pay troops’ salaries individually not via central bank, but reversed decision 21 Jan when EU agreed to pay via private banks.
Three army officers arrested 1 Dec for attempted assassination of presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe 28 Nov. Inter-Burundian dialogue mediator, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, visited Bujumbura 7-9 Dec to restart talks, 9 Dec said legitimacy of President Nkurunziza should no longer be questioned; main opposition coalition CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law) 12 Dec said it no longer recognised Mkapa as mediator. Soldiers pursued National Forces of Liberation (FNL) rebels in DRC and clashed with Congolese army in S Kivu 21 Dec, at least five Burundian soldiers killed, army denied incident (see DRC). Tensions between govt and Belgium and other European countries rose: after Belgian senate held conference raising human rights abuses in Burundi, govt 8 Dec recalled ambassador to Belgium; accused ambassadors of Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands and EU of boycotting govt after they failed to attend meeting on development assistance 13 Dec; police 15 Dec searched homes in expatriate neighbourhood in Kabondo, Bujumbura. UN inquiry 5 Dec accused 25 Burundian peacekeepers of sexual abuse in Central African Republic in 2014-2015. Nkurunziza late Dec said govt would sue African Union over unpaid wages for Burundi AMISOM contingent; EU suspended payments in March.
Senate 9 Nov requested govt launch census in administration to verify ethnic balance. Govt 14 Nov requested UN withdraw Special Envoy Jamal Benomar without giving reason. Human rights NGO Iteka warned 15 Nov that “criteria and conditions” for genocide were in place. Cabinet began constitutional review process 16 Nov by discussing creation of commission to prepare constitutional amendments. Parliament 21 Nov elected ally of President Nkurunziza former Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana as ombudsman. UN Human Rights Council 22 Nov appointed new members of Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; govt 25 Nov said it would not cooperate with commission and next day held protest against it, govt said 13,000 people took part in demonstrations. Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe survived attempted assassination 28 Nov, bodyguard killed; police 29 Nov said Rwanda behind attack in collusion with military personnel, soldier arrested 29 Nov for suspected involvement. AU 11 Nov rejected EU decision to pay Burundian troops deployed in AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) directly following govt’s failure to pass on wages to soldiers.
Govt began process to withdraw from ICC’s jurisdiction and continued crackdown on human rights organisations. Parliament 12 Oct voted to withdraw from ICC, President Nkurunziza 18 Oct endorsed decision, govt notified UN 27 Oct; withdrawal will take effect one year later. Several thousand people 8 Oct heeded call of Bujumbura mayor to protest against 20 Sept UN report documenting govt’s human rights violations. Govt 10 Oct banned three UN human rights investigators from country, 11 Oct said it would suspend cooperation with OHCHR. Interior ministry 24 Oct withdrew authorisations of ten human rights and other civil society organisations. Ruling CNDD-FDD party 3 Oct said govt had asked inter-Burundian dialogue mediator, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, to help repatriate exiled politicians, and that those who had committed crimes could face charges. Council of ministers 6 Oct studied draft law to create national volunteer corps, raising fears govt would use it to legalise actions of ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing turned militia. Tensions with Rwanda rose when Rwandan soldiers 4 Oct reportedly crossed border into Mwumba commune, Ngozi province in north, destroyed house and assaulted one civilian.
Low intensity conflict between regime and opposition continued, pushing number of Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries over 300,000 as political dialogue remained stalled. Opposition party National Forces of Liberation (FNL) 3 Sept denounced persecution of its supporters by Imbonerakure ruling party youth wing. Two corpses found in Ruzizi River, Cibitoke province 6 Sept which authorities immediately buried. In Bujumbura, grenade attack 13 Sept targeting army colonel injured his wife, another on police vehicle 19 Sept caused no casualties; another 14 Sept in Bururi province killed pro-govt former army officer and his family. In 20 Sept report, UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) accused govt of “widespread and systemic” human rights violations, confirmed existence of govt hit list and named suspected perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Govt 22 Sept called report “biased”, about 1,000 people 24 Sept protested against report in Bujumbura. Police 28 Sept arrested leader of Fedes-Sangira opposition party, member of main CNARED coalition, in Makamba for “endangering state security”; police chief 29 Sept said police had arrested eight officers and fifteen soldiers on same grounds in past two weeks. At East African Community (EAC) summit in Tanzania 8 Sept inter-Burundian dialogue mediator former Tanzanian President Mkapa presented roadmap for peace and called on EAC leaders to use leverage to revive mediation; leaders renewed support but did not agree on measures to break impasse.
President Nkurunziza consolidated control of ruling party as regime continued to repress opposition. Ruling party CNDD-FDD at congress 20 Aug replaced party president position with sec gen and appointed Nkurunziza’s former chief of staff and civil war commander Evariste Ndayishimiye to role. Commission for inter-Burundian Dialogue 23 Aug concluded from public consultations that most Burundians favour scrapping constitutional presidential term limit; opposition said findings fabricated. Govt 3 Aug rejected UNSC resolution to deploy 228 police to Burundi, calling it violation of sovereignty. UN Committee against Torture 12 Aug condemned forced disappearances of govt’s political rivals and its “genocidal rhetoric”. Govt repression targeted security force members believed opposed to Nkurunziza’s third term: police 20 Aug arrested and beat Major Clément Hamenyimana in Gitega; army 19 Aug said eleven officers refused to return after missions abroad fearing arrest. Search for journalist Jean Bigirimana, missing since 22 July, found two bodies in Mubarazi river, Muramvya province early Aug, neither identified as Bigirimana. Third body reportedly found in neighbouring Gitega province. Police 21 Aug arrested 54 members of WhatsApp group in Bujumbura for spreading false rumours.
Talks to end political crisis 12-14 July in Arusha failed to address main points of contention. Opposition members attended but govt refused to meet them formally, said its internal dialogue sufficient. Tanzanian govt’s attempt during talks to arrest Burundian opposition member wanted by Burundian govt undermined opposition’s trust in Tanzanian mediation. Next round not yet announced. In Bujumbura unidentified assailants 13 July shot dead Burundian member of East African Parliament Hafsa Mossi, recently critical of regime. Human rights minister 5 July rejected UN Human Rights Chief’s 29 June report denouncing regime’s abuses. Human Rights Watch 7 July released report detailing torture by intelligence officers. UN Committee against Torture 28-29 July conducted special review on Burundi. Despite continued govt opposition, UNSC 29 July authorised deployment of up to 228 UN police to monitor security and human rights in Burundi for one year, mission requires Burundi govt approval; govt 30 July organised march in Bujumbura to protest resolution. UN 8 July said Burundian peacekeepers in CAR under investigation for sexual abuses.
Govt continued to repress opposition; talks to end political crisis postponed from 21 June to 5 July. Lead facilitator former Tanzanian President Mkapa 10 June in Brussels promised opposition figures he would invite main exiled opposition alliance National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law (CNARED) as single entity to second round of talks. Govt repeated it would not negotiate with CNARED. Security forces mid-June deployed in centre-west Mugamba and Burambi areas to disarm rebels, made multiple arrests. Police 3 June arrested eleven students in Muramvya, east of Bujumbura, for defacing Nkurunziza’s image in textbooks, triggering protests. Police and intelligence services violently suppressed protests, killing one taxi driver and injuring two students. Provincial governors early June prevented Agathon Rwasa, opposition National Forces of Liberation (FNL) leader, from meeting his supporters in Gitega, Cibitoke and Karusi provinces. UN 3 June said it would not renew mandate of Burundian police in Central African Republic peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) when tour ends Sept 2016, citing allegations of human rights abuses. U.S. Treasury 2 June said it put sanctions on two govt officials and one Republican Forces of Burundi (FOREBU) rebel. Govt 20 June threatened to withdraw from ICC Rome Statute.
Talks to end political crisis postponed from 2 May after govt and opposition threatened to boycott over participants, later held in Arusha, Tanzania 21-24 May. Bowing to pressure from Bujumbura and Burundian East African Community (EAC) chief, lead facilitator former Tanzanian President Mkapa did not invite main exiled opposition alliance National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, Restoration of the Rule of Law (CNARED) but only some CNARED members. CNARED leaders and civil society organisations asked EAC chief not to interfere in talks. Mkapa 24 May said he would convene next session in June. African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 20 May called for international police force, more mili- tary and rights observers to be deployed in Burundi. Burundian rights activist late April said 1,098 civilians killed since violence began April 2015; police 3 May said 77 police and 374 civilians killed in same period. Security forces mid-late May arrested about 400 youths in Bujumbura and Mugamba; Bujumbura mayor said necessary to “manage movement of people”. Court 9 May delivered 21 life sentences to those involved in May 2015 attempted coup. Assassinations of military personnel continued; former colonel killed 25 May in Bujumbura. Rwanda mid-month expelled over 1,300 Burundians (see Rwanda).
Attacks against high-value targets rose sharply. In Bujumbura gunmen killed senior army officer and civilian motorcyclist 20 April; senior army officer with wife and bodyguard 25 April; failed grenade attack against minister of human rights 24 April. Fearing army discontent, govt 17 April retired some army personnel and moved about 500 from Bujumbura to provinces. Burundi and DR Congo armies 9 April launched operations in respective territories to track down Burundian rebel National Liberation Forces. UN human rights chief 18 April said at least 345 new reported cases of torture and ill-treatment by security forces since start of 2016. UNSC 1 April passed Resolution 2279 calling for UN police to monitor security; govt said it welcomed resolution. International Organisation of La Francophonie 8 April suspended cooperation with Burundi citing lack of progress in political dialogue, but maintained programs benefitting civilians and contributing to restoration of democracy. ICC 25 April announced it was starting preliminary investigations into political violence.
Violence increased while govt, under international pressure, made cosmetic concessions to opposition but continued repression. Gunmen killed three officials during month including two from ruling party; two army officers also shot dead 22 March in separate incidents in Bujumbura. New wave of army defections 24 March. One soldier died in Muzinda military camp 28 March after reportedly trying to kill other soldiers; army claimed it was suicide. Two grenades thrown at police bus in Bujumbura 29 March, seven injured. Govt freed 158 political prisoners, suspended around fifteen arrest warrants, reauthorised one local NGO and reopened two radio stations, but police arrested opposition activists including on 9 March Nadebu party president Hugo Haramategeko. EU 14 March suspended direct budget support to govt, but will maintain humanitarian aid, 29 March said it will cut funding to Burundi’s peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. Ruling party 10 March claimed Rwandan President Kagame behind plot to destabilise Burundi. Security services 7 March arrested man they claimed to be Rwandan spy; Rwanda 17 March denied allegation. Former Rwandan minister, arrested Dec 2015 for spying, died suddenly in Bujumbura prison 31 March. UN 22 March said 474 people killed in political violence since April 2015. UNHCR 4 March said over 250,000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring states.
President Nkurunziza gave indications he was ready to make concessions to resolve political crisis amid international pressure: after meeting Nkurunziza, UNSG Ban 23 Feb announced govt would hold political dialogue with opposition, lift media restrictions and release 2,000 prisoners. EU FMs 15 Feb said they were ready to strengthen economic sanctions against instigators of rights violations. Presidents of South Africa, Mauritania, Senegal, Gabon and Ethiopia visited Bujumbura 24-27 Feb; govt confirmed willingness to engage in dialogue, South African President Zuma 27 Feb said AU would send 100 human rights and 100 military monitors. Violence continued: gunmen 21 Feb killed two people; one person killed in grenade attack at market in Bujumbura 22 Feb.
Govt continued to refuse international intervention saying Burundi is “99% safe”; during 25 Jan UNSC envoys’ visit, President Nkurunziza rejected calls for dialogue with opposition and deployment of AU-proposed 5,000-strong peacekeeping force. AU summit 30-31 Jan shelved peacekeeping mission, but AU will send delegation of African presidents to negotiate with govt. Govt 5 Jan refused to attend second meeting with opposition set for 8 Jan in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss Uganda-mediated peace talks. Govt prevented planned 26 Jan arrival of OHCHR experts; 28 Jan arrested two Le Monde journalists, released next day. Violence continued in Bujumbura but at lower intensity than Dec; grenade attacks and shooting throughout month killed at least five. Supreme Court 15 Jan sentenced to life imprisonment four ex-generals involved in May 2015 coup attempt, nine others for 30 years.
Violence in Bujumbura dramatically intensified 11 Dec with coordinated attack on three military camps by unidentified armed insurgents. Security forces swiftly retaliated, army announced 87 killed including eight members of security forces; local sources put death toll at nearly 200 with reports of abuses including extrajudicial executions by security services. Incident prompted international outcry; AU Peace and Security Council 17 Dec decided to deploy 5,000-strong AU Prevention and Protection Mission (MAPROBU); President Nkurunziza said Burundians would fight any foreign troops. Rebel groups 23 Dec announced formation of “Republican Forces of Burundi (FOREBU)” to oust Nkurunziza. AU called for both govt and opposition to cooperate with peace talks, next round scheduled for 6 Jan. Trial of 28 accused of involvement in May coup attempt began mid-Dec.
President Nkurunziza 2 Nov announced “perpetrators of crimes” had five days to disarm in return for amnesty or be treated as enemies of state; scores fled Bujumbura early Nov. Daily deadly violence, shootings and repression continued in capital throughout month, including grenades thrown at mayor’s residence 16 Nov; mortar bombs exploded near presidential palace 18 Nov: son of human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa killed 6 Nov; prominent journalist and editor of Iwacu independent newspaper fled to Belgium after being questioned mid-month over alleged links to plotters of May coup attempt. Authorities 8 Nov began disarmament operations in Bujumbura’s Mutakara neighbourhood. Nkurunziza’s ultimatum and perceived “rhetorical similarities” with Rwanda in 1994 triggered increased diplomatic interventions: Rwandan President Kagame urged Burundi not to repeat Rwanda’s genocide; Ugandan defence minister 13 Nov met with Burundi stakeholders and Belgian diplomats in attempt to discuss reactivating stalled Ugandan mediation. UNSG Ban 6 Nov condemned “inflammatory rhetoric”, killing and torture; 30 Nov outlined options for addressing crisis including possible deployment of peacekeepers. UNSC 12 Nov passed resolution condemning violence and urging govt to convene inclusive inter-Burundian dialogue. EU and Belgium 13 Nov began evacuating all non-essential personnel from Bujumbura.
Despite early Oct creation of Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission to oversee dialogue between govt and opposition, daily violence continued, especially in Bujumbura where corpses were found on streets throughout month. Some twenty civilians killed 3 and 13 Oct in shootings, clashes with security forces. Armed groups mid-Oct repeatedly attacked police positions in Bujumbura, reportedly killing a dozen policemen. Opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) party representative found dead 18 Oct following 17 Oct arrest. Relations with Rwanda continued to deteriorate: FM Alain Nyamitwe 1 Oct accused Rwanda of training rebels to destabilise country; police 18 Oct reportedly killed six arrested Rwandans. Govt 7 Oct expelled Désiré Nyaruhirira, first counsellor of Rwandan embassy, for “creating insecurity”; 9 Oct asked Belgium to replace its ambassador. International pressure on govt and authorities increased: UNSC 28 Oct urged stakeholders to pursue dialogue; UN rights chief Zeid 23 Oct expressed concern over “rapidly worsening” security and rights situation; EU 1 Oct imposed sanctions on three security officials and former general, 26 Oct invited govt to talks, threatened aid suspension if talks fail; AU 17 Oct adopted targeted sanctions, decided to launch investigation into rights violations, called for peace talks outside Burundi and preparation of African-led peace mission in case of deterioration.
Political violence and insecurity increased in Bujumbura as govt-opposition dialogue remained deadlocked. Tensions increased within security forces and ruling CNDD-FDD: army chief of staff General Prime Niyongabo 11 Sept escaped assassination attempt, reportedly by army members, which left at least six dead. Attacks on opposition, arrests and kidnappings continued, including 7 Sept killing of opposition Union for Peace and Development (UPD) spokesperson Patrice Gahungu in Bujumbura and 15-16 Sept arrest of some 100 men, reportedly to prevent them from joining armed anti-govt groups. Catholic Church 22 Sept called for govt-opposition dialogue; govt 23 Sept said is open to talks, but will not negotiate with opposition leaders who “pursue insurgency”. Armed assailants attacked several security forces’ posts near Bujumbura throughout month; mortars fired at presidential palace on 25 Sept. Attorney general 17 Sept published report identifying 25 leaders of April-June protests, said they worked with organisers of May military coup.
Violence escalated following President Nkurunziza’s successful July bid for third presidential term: former intelligence chief and president’s close advisor General Adolphe Nshimirimana killed 2 Aug in rocket attack on his car; leading civil society figure Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa seriously wounded by gunmen in apparent murder attempt 3 Aug; ex-army chief Jean Bikomagu murdered 15 Aug; opposition politician Pontien Barutwanayo killed 22 Aug; three people including ruling CNDD-FDD official shot dead 30 Aug. Arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and killings of opposition members, civil society and military, and anti- and pro-Nkurunziza youth throughout month compounded atmosphere of fear. Nkurunziza 26 Aug said groups that threaten national security must be destroyed, announced creation of special security committees. Amnesty International 24 Aug said security forces have been torturing suspected Nkurunziza opponents since beginning of protests 26 April. UNSC 10 Aug expressed concern, called on govt to resume dialogue with opposition. Nkurunziza opponents early month formed “National Council for Respect of Arusha agreement, Restoration of Rule of Law” (CNARED), 18 Aug called on Nkurunziza to resign. Nkurunziza 24 Aug appointed new govt comprising opposition National Liberation Forces (FNL) and ruling CNDD-FDD ministers after being sworn in 20 Aug.
Electoral commission (CENI) 24 July announced President Nkurunziza’s victory in 21 July presidential elections boycotted by opposition and accompanied by violence in Bujumbura. UN, U.S. said elections not credible; opposition leader Agathon Rwasa 25 July rejected result after 22 July calling on Nkurunziza to form unity govt to avoid violence, but attended opening session of new parliament 27 July, 30 July was named deputy speaker, breaking unity of opposition. Violence in Bujumbura intensified throughout month including police killing six alleged gang members after several policemen were killed 1 July. CENI 7 July announced Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD won 77% of votes in late June legislative and district elections; UN 2 July said elections not free and fair. EAC 6 July appointed Ugandan President Museveni as mediator in Burundi crisis; Museveni met with stakeholders 14-15 July, govt 19 July failed to appear and asked to adjourn talks. Opposition members living abroad 15 July announced creation of national council to restore Arusha agreement, oppose Nkurunziza; council set to hold first meeting end of month. Army 13 July said 31 militants who crossed border from Rwanda killed 10 July, some 170 captured; Kigali denied militants came from Rwanda.
Parliamentary elections opened 29 June amid climate of fear and violence, despite international efforts to delay polls and ensure they are free and fair. Opening of several voting stations delayed by 29 June grenade attacks. Seventeen opposition parties 11 June announced boycott of 29 June parliamentary vote and presidential polls scheduled for 15 July; AU chief 28 June said AU will not observe elections after govt rejected international proposal to move legislative and presidential elections to 30 July and mid-August respectively. Violence in Bujumbura continued despite end of mass protests, including four killed, some 30 injured in grenade attacks 22 June. UN human rights chief Zeid 9 June warned increasing violence by Imbonerakure youth militia destabilising country. VP Gervais Rufyikiri 25 June and head of parliament Pie Ntavyohanyuma 28 June defected, fled country; latter said he received death threats after criticising President Nkurunziza’s third term bid.
Protests against President Nkurunziza’s run for third term continued amid deepening repression and insecurity. Seventeen officers arrested 14 May following failed coup attempt led by former army Major General Godefroid Niyombare, who fled country. Civil society-led protests continued as violence intensified: some 30 killed, 600 arrested in police crackdown; three killed 22 May in grenade attack on Bujumbura market. Amid increasing antagonism within security forces, soldier reportedly shot by police 20 May. Dialogue between protesters and govt began 23 May, opposition leader Zedi Feruzi shot, killed same day; opposition accused police, 25 May suspended dialogue for three days, 27 May said free, fair elections “impossible”. Govt reshuffle 18 May replaced three ministers, violating power-sharing agreement between military old guard and ruling CNDD-FDD. EU and Belgium 11 May halted election aid; Belgium 21 May threatened to halt all govt-to-govt aid if Nkurunziza runs. Govt 26 May asked Burundians for donations to fund elections; EU 28 May suspended its election monitoring mission, withdrew poll observers amid security concerns. East African Community (EAC) 31 May held summit on Burundi, called for postponement of elections, political dialogue about Nkurunziza’s candidacy. Nkurunziza 20 May signed decree postponing municipal elections until 5 June, presidential polls to go ahead 26 June.
Ruling CNDD-FDD 25 April officially announced President Nkurunziza’s candidacy in June presidential elections, expelled members opposed to his third term, removed from party leadership (“wise men council”) second VP and national assembly chairman due to their opposition to candidacy. Senate 29 April referred Nkurunziza’s candidacy to constitutional court. Mass protests organised by civil society and some opposition parties turned violent 26 April; demonstrations ongoing, military deployed, at least six protesters killed. Govt 27 April closed several independent radio stations for broadcasting live from protests, 29 April blocked social media networks. UNSG 28 April condemned violence, called for investigation into deaths. Nkurunziza’s nomination came despite increasing domestic, international pressure earlier in month: hundreds protested 17 April; UN Human Rights chief Zeid 15 April expressed concerns after 12-15 April visit; UNSG same day also voiced concern, called for free and fair elections. Over 20,000 reported to have fled to Rwanda since mid-March fearing electoral violence, with number rapidly increasing after announcement of Nkurunziza’s candidacy.
Increased social discontent, including 3 March general strike against high cost of living, and deepening political tensions over President Nkurunziza’s potential third term. Ruling CNDD-FDD meeting 11 March exposed discontent among party members: party leaders (“Wise Men Council”) 14 March opposed Nkurunziza’s presidential candidacy; CNDD-FDD President Nyabenda 24 March condemned petition against Nkurunziza’s third term signed by 73 of party’s senior executive, ten excluded from party next day. Former CNDD-FDD party leader Hussein Radjabu early March escaped jail, rumours he was aided by party officials. Party hardliners including generals and “Imbonerakure” youth movement reportedly organising terror campaign to support Nkurunziza’s candidacy: General Nshimirimana 7 March announced he would use “any means” to ensure Nkurunziza is CNDD-FDD candidate. Former intelligence chief’s wife and opposition National Liberation Forces (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa’s wife survived assassination attempts 8 and 15 March respectively. Electoral commission (CENI) 21-23 March reopened voter registration.
Domestic opposition to President Nkurunziza’s potential third term increased: coalition of civil society organisations 4 Feb published warning letter to president; 11 Feb said his candidacy will lead to violence. Head of intelligence service Godefroid Niyombare dismissed 18 Feb, allegedly for warning president of risk of violence should he attempt third term, replaced with Etienne Ntakirutimana 24 Feb. Journalist Bob Rugurika, arrested 20 Jan, released 19 Feb, greeted by thousands of sympathisers in Bujumbura. Human Rights Watch 12 Feb accused security forces, ruling party youth wing “Imbonerakure” of 47 extrajudicial executions during 30 Dec-3 Jan clash with armed group in Cibitoke province near DRC border. Pro-govt demonstrations throughout country 28 Feb, organised by authorities.
Ahead of May/June elections opposition to President Nkurunziza’s potential third term intensified: former ruling CNDD-FDD Senator Richard Nimbesha 12 Jan said party gave Nkurunziza only two mandates. Opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) 11 Jan appointed Alexis Sinduhije as presidential candidate. Govt and National Electoral Commission 12 Jan boycotted official launch of UN Electoral Mission (MENUB) amid ongoing discussions over MENUB’s role and activities. CNDD-FDD spokesperson 29 Jan announced party open to compromise, seeking free and fair polls. Prominent radio journalist Bob Rugurika arrested 20 Jan after broadcasting investigative reports on Sept murder of Italian nuns.
Eleven members of Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) elected by National Assembly in controversial process 3 Dec; majority allegedly close to President Nkurunziza and ruling party CNDD-FDD. Renewed tension between opposition and govt ahead of mid-2015 elections with allegations of irregularities in voter enrolment process, fraudulent registration, falsified IDs; opposition parties and civil society demanded new voter registration, resignation of electoral commission (CENI); CENI 26 Dec dismissed fraud as minor. Attacks reported in Bugunda, 60km north of Bujumbura 30 Dec; fourteen attackers from DRC reportedly killed, details unclear.
Cabinet reshuffle 28 Nov saw chief of cabinet and head of secret services, both considered key allies of President Nkurunziza, replaced. Organisation of June 2015 elections criticised by opposition and civil society, with allegations municipal and provincial electoral commission are dominated by President Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party, and concerns voter registration that began 24 Nov easily rigged. Cassam Utee appointed Special Envoy and Head of UN electoral mission to Burundi, early electoral observation mission to start 1 Jan 2015. Security deteriorated in Bujumbura: several attacks by armed gangs throughout month; govt 3 Nov warned of Al-Shabaab threat, two arrested.
Presence of Burundian army in S Kivu (DRC) confirmed 2 Oct by MONUSCO, reportedly fighting National Liberation Forces (FNL) rebels; reports army withdrew 7 Oct. FNL claimed responsibility for 6 Oct attack on Burundian troops in Gihanga, casualty numbers disputed. Provincial electoral commissions lists published 1 Oct; civil society and several political parties alleged members purportedly representing them in fact close to ruling party.
Human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, arrested 15 May, granted conditional release 29 Sept due old age, ill-health; transferred to private hospital. Release followed international pressure, including EU threat of sanctions; France’s call for release; visit by UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) human rights officials. Leone Ngendakumana, president of opposition coalition ADC-Ikibiri, appeared in court 2 Sept, accused of “damaging allegations, slanderous accusations and ethnic aversion” for Feb letter to UNSG Ban warning of risk of political violence and genocide.
Ahead of 2015 presidential elections, President Nkurunziza still silent on rumoured intention to run; opposition UPRONA, FRODEBU still divided. As donor countries pledged financial electoral assistance, Netherlands ambassador Jolke Oppewal 1 Aug called for political parties’ reunification, political space, non-violence. Burundi and Rwanda authorities 25 Aug launched joint investigation following late Aug discovery of 5 corpses in north-western Lake Rweru; about 40 corpses reported by fishermen since July.
Deputy and former chairman of opposition UPRONA Charles Nditije, excluded 30 June after internal power struggle, 12 July said he had survived assassination attempt in Bujumbura. Amnesty International 29 July published report denouncing shrinking political space in Burundi.
Tensions between international community and govt continued: after 2 June statement by special envoys from U.S., AU, UN, EU criticising restrictions of political freedom, UN diplomat asked to leave country; decision later reversed. Despite international pressure, detention of human rights group APRODH chairman Pierre Claver Mbonimpa upheld by appeals court 9 June. Congolese NGO Journaliste en Danger (JED) alleged 2 journalists threatened by Burundian soldiers in S Kivu despite govt denial of Burundian presence in DR Congo; 9 soldiers reportedly killed 23 June by National Forces of Liberation (FNL) in S Kivu, DRC. President Nkurunziza 5 June suggested he could run for presidency in 2015 elections despite constitutional two-term limit. Political parties 9 June adopted code of good conduct ahead of 2015 polls.
Political situation remained tense: head of human rights group APRODH Pierre Claver Mbonimpa 6 May said CNDD-FDD youth league “Imbonerakure” receiving weapons and paramilitary training in Congo; Mbonimpa arrested and jailed 15 May, charged with endangering state security. Opposition Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD) president Alexis Sinduhije detained 1 May in Brussels as result of arrest warrant and request for extradition issued by govt following March confrontation between MSD supporters and police; released 6 May. Political actors, parties met 20 May to discuss implementation of March 2013 electoral roadmap.
UN mission BNUB internal report containing allegations that ruling CNDD-FDD is arming “Imbonerakure” youth league leaked early April. Govt demanded evidence or retraction of allegations, accused UN of spreading unfounded rumours, 17 April expelled BNUB security chief Paul Debbie. U.S. ambassador to UN and UK Foreign Office under sec state 8 April met President Nkurunziza, warned of risk of civil war, said those responsible for violence would face international prosecution. Parliament 25 April adopted new electoral code by consensus; opposition satisfied, civil society applauded but warned tension still high; BNUB commended as significant step forward. Opposition Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-Ikibiri) chairman arrested 20 April for sending letter criticising govt to UNSG. Govt 10 April banned 15 political parties; UNSC expressed concern over political tensions, restrictions on press and civil liberties. Ruling CNDD-FDD 17 April voted to launch commission on truth and reconciliation; coalition partners UPRONA and FRODEBU boycotted vote, civil society groups expressed concerns over commission com- position. Agathon Rwasa called on his FNL party to reunite 2 wings ahead of 2015 elections.
Tensions over 2015 election preparations continued: parliament 23 March rejected constitutional review; contradictory statements by ministers, media about candidacy of President Nkurunziza. Police 8 March clashed with thousands of opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) supporters protesting govt restrictions on political freedom; over a dozen protesters and 2 police injured. Govt 14 March suspended MSD for 4 months; public prosecutor issued arrest warrant for MSD leader; 69 demonstrators arrested. Court 21 March sentenced 21 protesters to life, 26 to prison terms. Former VP Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira, arrested Dec 2013, provisionally released 20 March. Dissident wing of FNL led by former commander Aloys Nzabampema attacked military bases close to capital early, mid-March; at least 2 killed.
Relations between ruling CNDD-FDD and minority coalition partner UPRONA sharply deteriorated: first VP Busokoza from UPRONA dismissed 1 Feb after annulling govt’s decision to replace UPRONA chairman; all 3 UPRONA ministers resigned in protest 4-5 Feb. Reshuffle mid-Feb to replace UPRONA min- isters highly contested, new UPRONA VP Prosper Banzombanza appointed 13 Feb without UPRONA majority support. 3 UPRONA activists arrested 16 Feb in police raid on party meeting; 5 injured. Former rebel opposition National Forces of Liberation (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa warned political crisis risks sparking new unrest ahead of 2015 presidential election. UNSC 13 Feb unanimously renewed BNUB mandate until end of 2014.
Constitutional Court 7 Jan partially invalidated provisions of controversial media-control law; Union of Burundian Journalists (UBJ) denounced restrictive measures still in effect. Opposition UPRONA 20 Jan declared intent to appeal to constitutional court over controversial land law passed in Dec. UNSG 28 Jan proposed renewal of BNUB mandate despite govt resistance.
National Assembly held consultations with civil society and political parties 19-20 Dec to discuss constitutional review. Protest against constitutional amendment planned 9 Dec cancelled after 5 Dec arrest of prominent FRODEBU politician Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira on charges of attempted corruption; opposition denounced arrest as politically motivated. National Assembly 28 Dec passed controversial draft law on national commission on land and properties.
New constitution draft sent to National Assembly for approval mid-Nov despite widespread opposition from civil society and opposition parties. UPRONA and FRODEBU Nyakuri and Batwa deputies 26 Nov asked govt to suspend draft bill, requesting wider consultations; FNL historical leader Agathon Rwasa 11 Nov called for March 2013 roadmap to be respected; civil society organisations 4 Nov launched protest campaign. 8 Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-Ikibiri) opposition coalition parties 24 Nov agreed to select common candidate and list for 2015 elections. Govt 7 Nov asked UNSC to close its office, BNUB, when current mandate expires.
At least 5 wounded 6 Oct in street clashes in Gihanga between opposition Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) supporters and ruling CNDD-FDD “Imbonerakure” youth wing; opposition, civil society expressed concern Imbonerakure becoming CNDD-FDD militia. VP Sinunguruza (UPRONA) resigned 14 Oct; President Nkurunziza 16 Oct appointed Bernard Busokoza (UPRONA) as replacement despite discontent within CNDD-FDD over his alleged role in 1993 coup. Journalist Hassan Ruvakuki, jailed on terrorism charges, granted conditional release 22 Oct. Police 6 Oct arrested 11 in Bujumbura in terrorist crackdown following Nairobi Westgate mall attack.
Ruling CNDD-FFD announced changes to constitution not necessary to allow President Nkurunziza to run again as Nkurunziza only elected once via direct vote; civil society and opposition denounced move. Public prosecutor 12 Sept announced investigation opened into role of newly-returned opposition FNL leader Agathon Rwasa in massacre of some 160 DRC refugees in Aug 2004; several opposition parties said investigation politically motivated.
Former rebel National Forces of Liberation (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa returned from exile 6 Aug, reportedly to prepare for 2015 elections; police prevented Rwasa from addressing supporters. Rwasa 22 Aug rejected allegations he ordered 2004 massacre of Congolese Tutsi refugees in Gatumba. FNL-Miburo swiftly distanced itself from former leader.
UN SRSG Parfait Onanga-Anyanga 22 July said Burundi making progress but still faces challenges including cross-border incursions, “mixed” human rights record; said past 6 months saw “significant” advances in political dialogue. President Nkurunziza 27 July announced Burundi ready to deploy peacekeeping troops to CAR.
President Nkurunziza 4 June signed restrictive media-control law. 2 journalists summoned to court 11 and 13 June, first to reveal sources, second on charges of breaching national security. Iwacu newspaper online forum forced to close until 1 July. Another journalist arrested 13 June, accused of breaching national security, links to Congolese M23 rebels, later released. Tensions over land ownership continued following 31 May riots in Bujumbura; some 23 rioters arrested, 19 convicted 4 June, sentenced to 3 years’ jail for rebellion. National Land and Properties Commission accused by Tutsis of being biased toward Hutu refugees.
Petition against proposed restrictive media-control law given to President Nkurunziza 6 May; Nkurunziza also under pressure from Burundi’s main international partners to review law. Alleged former FNL rebels 18 May ambushed bus in Gatumba, 15km from Bujumbura, killing 3. Govt and opposition met 22-25 May to discuss electoral code for 2015 polls in line with March UN-backed roadmap. Ruling CNDD-FDD 16 May denied creation of militia following reports of increasing violence against civil society and opponents by party’s youth movement Imbonerakure.
National Assembly and Senate 29 April finished drafting controversial draft media law widely condemned as restrictive by press, UN, opposition and civil society. President Nkurunziza 9-12 April visited Iran, discussed economic support. Nkurunziza 13 April addressed ruling party leaders, warned against factionalism.