Burundi Political Violence Worries UN


website like this geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 150%;”>“Special attention must be paid to the full respect for freedom of expression, malady including for journalists and human rights defenders,” Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, said in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura on Friday as he wrapped up a three-day visit.

He added that: “Violence linked to the electoral process must be prevented and harassment against perceived political adversaries must not be tolerated. All these are preconditions for free and fair elections in 2015 and for its results to be accepted by everyone.”

The remarks follow heightened international pressure on Burundi amid reports that government is training and arming a militant youth group ahead of the 2015 presidential elections.

Chimpreports recently broke news of a leaked UN cable to the U. S Envoy to United Nations, Samantha Power, reading, “there was distribution of weapons and military outfits to the youth affiliated to the ruling CNDD-FDD (Imbonerakure) party and the demobilised ex-AIMP Rumonge.”

A UN official in Bujumbura said in the “confidential” memo to his bosses in New York on April 3, 2014 that “a meeting was held in a hotel known as Kukanyamuneza belonging to a ‘Brigadier General’ in Nduwumunsi in Rumonge” to draw a plan on doling out the weapons.

He further observed that a night training for the handling of these weapons was held near the Central Prison of Rumonge (Kumurembwe) and that the surrounding population heard the gunfire.

“One can only speculate about the purpose of the distribution of weapons and uniforms in Bururi which is a traditional stronghold of the UPRONA.”

Burundi remains a fragile country after enduring three decades of a bloody conflict.

It is widely feared the mass militarisation of politics by President Nkurunziza and preparation of the militant Imbonerakure youth could plunge Burundi into genocide.

UN worried

Mr. Šimonovic was in Burundi to assess the country’s human rights situation.

During his visit, he met with Burundian officials, with representatives of the international community, civil society groups, and visited Bujumbura’s Mpimba prison, according to a press release form the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

In his meetings, Mr. Šimonovic congratulated Burundi for the country’s successes since the signing of the Arusha peace Accord in 2000, including the recent unanimous adoption by the National Assembly of the new electoral code for the 2015 elections as well as the signing by Government and political parties and actors of the General Principles for the elections.

Yet, he also noted his deep concern regarding recent developments, including the growing restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly and association.

Mr. Šimonovic expressed particular concern at the fact that the number of politically motivated incidents involving the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, against perceived political adversaries, has more than doubled compared to the same period last year.

He called on the Government ensure that perpetrators of political violence are held accountable.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights added that many donors consider that a continued assessment of the human rights situation is important to extend their support to the country.

In addition to his other meetings, Mr. Šimonovic discussed with the Government the modalities of continued cooperation between the UN and Burundi in the area of human rights after the expiration of the mandate of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB).


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