27 February 2018

Burundi: Critics Bullied in Burundi Draft Referendum

Kigali — THREATS by President Pierre Nkurunziza and intimidation by ruling party supporters have cast doubt on a credible constitutional referendum in Burundi.

Ahead of the exercise set for May, rights groups alleged authorities have embarked on a massive operation of forced registration of the electorate, including minors, as well as incite violent action against any opponent of the constitutional referendum.

In his campaigning speech recently, Nkurunziza, of the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party, declared those who opposed the draft revision of the constitution would "suffer the consequences."

A spokesperson of the Ministry of Public Security has also welcomed the arrest of people suspected of encouraging the "No" vote.

The International Federation for Human Rights and Ligue Iteka, Burundi's human rights group, denounced the conditions of organisation of the referendum.

They urged the United Nations (UN) to take note of the violations when its Security Council holds a special meeting on Burundi on Monday (today).

The draft referendum attempts to close a constitutional crisis opened three years ago when Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, announced he would run for a new term, in violation of the constitution.

It precipitated Burundi into violence and repression that has already claimed several thousand lives.

The referendum is seen as an attempt to ensure the president an opportunity to run for two new terms of seven years and retain power for at least the next 14 years.

It comes on the back of grave human rights violations.

In 2017, Ligue Iteka has documented 456 murders, 283 victims of torture, 89 enforced disappearances and 77 victims of sexual violence against women.

Some 2 338 people were reportedly arrested and often detained without due process.


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