23 May 2018

Burundi: Visitor Logbooks Still Required 3 Years After Unrest

Photo: © Landry Nshimiye - Belgaimage
President Pierre Nkurunziza

The shadow of the Burundian government's 2015 crackdown on political unrest lingers over the capital. Amid tightened security, residents must keep log books in their homes to track visitors. Security services dropping by can demand to see them and failure to produce them can result in arrest.

Twenty-two year old Irakoze lives in one of the neighborhood where protests erupted in 2015. She has not fled her area, but she has spent much of her time alone.

She said it has been two years since the government gave her the book, and she hasn't received any visitors because people are afraid.

Burundian authorities distributed notebooks in homes for people to register family members and other visitors. They are required to report any visitor to the government's "area chief." Failure to report and register a visitor can be a ticket to jail.

Police enforce the regulations with frequent searches, which terrifies Irakoze.

She said police forcefully knock on the door, scaring her family and waking up children from their sleep. She said the sound of the knock can have an impact even on those who are sick.

Sometimes you think you are being attacked by criminals, she said. They come with a lot of force to do their search.

Security agencies maintain that keeping records of people's movements will help them keep peace and security.

Some people support the policy. Sixty-eight-year-old Nduwabike Michel said it is good to have the log because no one bothers you and one can live freely without fear.

A man who lives in Cibitoke neighborhood, an area that has protested against President Pierre Nkurunziza's rule, said police search is not about improving security, but to punish people for their political views.

He said searches are not bad, but police search in areas where people protested against the government, He said they don't search areas where there were no protests. The search issue has a political agenda, he added.

The 2015 unrest was sparked by the president's decision to run for a controversial third term. Last week, Burundians approved a new constitution that will allow Nkurunziza to potentially stay in office until 2034.

The United States said the process was marred by a lack of transparency and efforts to intimidate the opposition.

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