13 June 2017

Burundi: Democracy Not Fully Understood in Burundi, Say Catholic Bishops

Photo: © 2016 Privé
There has been several reports on torture of detainees by security forces in Burundi.

In a declaration they issued on 9 June, the Catholic Bishops of Burundi say democracy is not yet fully understood in the country. They say they are concerned about the people who are being intimidated by some administrative officials.

The statement by the Episcopal Conference of Burundi says the security situation has improved throughout the country compared to the deadly violence that Burundi has experienced since April 2015.

Burundian Bishops say they are concerned by the fact that democracy is not clearly understood in the country. "Some reduce it to the simple fact of holding elections, ignoring the respect of its principles and values, "said Joachim Ntahondereye, Bishop of Muyinga Diocese and Chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Burundi.

The bishops say there is growing apprehension in the country which proves that the future is likely to be tainted with resentment and revolt following the intimidation and political blunders which some people suffer at the hands of some administrative officials.

Bishops said that after discussing the situation in their respective dioceses. They, however, noted slight security improvement in the country but which, according to them, is not very likely to lead to lasting peace.

Democracy is a process

Martin Nivyabandi, Minister of Human Rights, says democracy is a process. "The Government of Burundi is making efforts to promote peace and security in the country, which goes hand in hand with democracy," says Minister of Human Rights. He also says any administrative authority guilty of oppressing the population by means of his/her position is punished individually.

The bishops of Burundi have opposed the third candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza in the 2015 elections. They withdrew the priests and religious observers from the dismemberments of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) saying they were some irregularities in the 2015 election process.

Amnesty International reports that the current Burundi political crisis has become less overtly violent, although serious human rights violations continued, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture or other ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests. "Violence against women and girls increased. The rights to freedom of expression and association were stifled. With increased repression and unchallenged impunity, a climate of fear took root in the capital and elsewhere", says Amnesty International.

Burundi has plunged into a crisis since the official announcement of the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza in the 2015 presidential elections that he won. Some politicians and members of civil society organizations accuse him of having violated the Burundian Constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement. According to UN reports, over 400 thousands Burundians have fled the country since 2015.

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