BUJUMBURA – In reaction to claims of peace and stability by the government, political opponents say reports of assassinations, torture and forced disappearances, the high number of Burundi refugees and the worsening economic conditions for Burundian citizens show insecurity.
The government has hosted a number of regional and international events, and presented them as proof of peace and security.
Yesterday, Burundi hosted the international conference of African ombudsmen and mediators. Burundi ombudsman, Edouard Nduwimana, said in an interview that the event was an opportunity to prove there is peace and stability in Burundi.
In the last three months, Burundi has hosted at least five regional events. The government consistently uses such events to counter reports of instability in Burundi by national and international actors, critics say.
“Hosting regional or international meetings alone does not show there is peace and stability in a given country”, says Tatien Sibomana, a political opponent Sibomana observes that the events are tightly secured by the military and the police.
Even CNIDH, a rights commission mandated by the government, recognises the unlawful killings and violations of human rights, Sibomana says. This proves that “we can’t sing peace and stability” in Burundi.
CNIDH reported on Wednesday that about 400 deaths, 100 forced disappearances, 60 cases of torture and inhuman treatment and over 700 cases of arbitrary arrest took place from 2016 to June 2017.
“All this is mostly caused by those who were supposed to make sure all Burundian citizens are living safely”, says Sibomana.
The president of the commission, Jean Baptiste Baribonekeza, came under fire from some members of the Parliament from the Cndd-Fdd ruling party. They said he produced a report against the government to win the trust of the UN Human Rights Council.
Typically, government officials don’t like reports depicting the violations of human rights in Burundi, critics say.
Sibomana says that another important sign that there is insecurity in Burundi is that government officials are protected by servicemen who are heavily armed. “The fact that rulers do not feel they are morally and physically secure means that an ordinary citizen cannot feel secure either”, says Sibomana.
“In a meeting of politicians we had in Kayanza recently, government authorities compelled us to sign a communiqué declaring there is peace and stability and we refused”, says Léonce Ngendakumana, another political opponent.
“How can there be peace with all the assassinations, forced disappearances of people who are later found dead and all the incitement to [ethnic] division within the armed forces?” asks Ngendakumana.