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Amid ongoing harassment of opposition supporters, violent clashes between security forces and ruling party CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, and main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL), raised risk of escalation around general elections still planned for 20 May despite COVID-19 pandemic. Civil society mid-April condemned wave of arbitrary arrests of CNL members in several provinces since early April. CNL supporters and Imbonerakure, youth wing of CNDD-FDD, 8 April clashed in northern Kayanza province, one Imbonerakure killed; police next day arrested up to 30 CNL supporters there. Unidentified assailants 11 April killed local CNDD-FDD secretary in Kiremba commune, northern Ngozi province; authorities next day arrested ten party members on suspicion of involvement in attack. Clashes between CNDD-FDD and CNL supporters 19 April left six injured including CNDD-FDD regional secretary in Kirundo province in north. Police 28 April arrested CNL parliamentary election candidate for southern Makamba province over suspected involvement in previous day attack on Imbonerakure in Ngozi province. After first VP Gaston Sindimwo 7 April confirmed general elections planned for 20 May would go ahead despite COVID-19 pandemic, govt 15 April cancelled participation of diaspora in elections, citing insufficient capacity of electoral commission to organise voting abroad amid crisis. Campaign started 27 April. During raid in Bururi province in south, police 15 April reportedly killed three people, including former army officer Pascal Ninganza (alias Kaburimbo), suspected of having provided military training to demonstrators during 2015 anti-govt protests; civil society condemned extra-judicial killings. Military and Imbonerakure crossed into neighbouring DR Congo’s South Kivu province late March-early April to allegedly combat Burundian rebel groups in Mulenge locality. Congolese military 3 April detained three Burundian nationals suspected of stealing weapons in South Kivu province. Govt forces 26-27 April reportedly clashed with Burundian rebel group RED-TABARA in South Kivu’s Uvira territory; rebels claimed five govt soldiers killed.
Electoral Commission (CENI) moved ahead with preparations of May general elections despite COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities and ruling party’s youth wing continued to harass opposition supporters. CENI 10 March approved six candidates for May presidential election including ruling party CNDD-FDD candidate Evariste Ndayishimiye and main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) candidate Agathon Rwasa. CENI rejected four candidacies including opposition Kira Burundi coalition candidate and former President Domitien Ndayizeye; Kira Burundi 12 March contested CENI’s decision before Constitutional Court, which reinstated Ndayizeye 19 March. Govt 20 March ruled out postponing May elections on account of COVID-19. UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi 9 March highlighted deteriorating political, security and economic situation in briefing to UN Human Rights Council, expressing concern over impunity of crimes against opposition supporters notably by Imbonerakure, youth wing of CNDD-FDD. Suspected members of Imbonerakure 16 March killed local CNL leader in Migera locality, Bujumbura Rural province; 28 March attacked household of CNL supporter in Ruyigi province. Police reportedly arrested two CNL members in Bubanza and Mwaro provinces 23 March and two others in Muyinga province 29 March. Military police 4-5 March arrested 36 returning Burundian soldiers from African Union Mission in Somalia on charges of rape and theft. Defence and security officials 11 March met with counterparts from DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda in Goma, DRC, to discuss stabilisation efforts in eastern DRC. In attempt to stop spread of COVID-19, govt 15 March closed border with Rwanda until further notice and 21 March suspended all flights in and out of economic capital Bujumbura international airport.
Security forces launched deadly raids amid wave of harassment against opposition supporters ahead of general elections due in May, and military conducted cross-border operation in DR Congo against Burundian rebel group. Security forces and Imbonerakure, youth wing of ruling party CNDD-FDD, 3-15 Feb arrested tens of opposition supporters, including at least thirteen members of National Congress for Freedom (CNL) and two UPRONA members across several provinces. Imbonerakure 16 Feb violently prevented CNL members from attending party congress in economic capital Bujumbura where delegates that day chose CNL leader Agathon Rwasa to be party’s presidential candidate in May general elections. Authorities next day arrested nine CNL members in Ngozi province for taking part in congress. Security forces said they clashed with unidentified gunmen who attacked Kirombwe, Bujumbura rural province, 19 Feb; CNL 22 Feb described incident as “staged attack”, said police and Imbonerakure had since arrested 23 CNL members and beaten one to death; authorities 24 Feb said security forces killed at least 22 “wrongdoers” in week-long operations in Bujumbura rural province. Local civil society group said majority of those killed were CNL members. In other incident, after unidentified assailants 23 Feb reportedly killed Imbonerakure in Bururi province, police 24-26 Feb arrested eighteen, mostly CNL members. Unidentified assailants 26 Feb reportedly beat CNDD-FDD official in Muyinga province prompting Imbonerakure to attack home of CNL member, leaving three injured. Several political parties early Feb criticised electoral commission’s candidacy requirements which could prevent candidates from running for president. Govt mid-Feb refused to issue travel documents to six politicians in exile in Uganda, de facto barring them from returning to country. Military early Feb reportedly launched cross-border operation against Burundian rebel group RED-TABARA in South Kivu province in DR Congo.