15 March 2019

Burundi: Grave Violations Reported Ahead of Burundi Polls

Bujumbura — A CRACKDOWN on government critics by youth aligned to the ruling party and authorities have cast doubts on Burundi hosting credible elections in 2020.

The United Nations' (UN's) Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Burundi expressed concern that members of the opposition were killed, targeted and arrested while sexual violence was continuing in the run-up to the polls.

There have been indiscriminate shooting of demonstrators and targeting of journalists.

Imbonerakure, the radical youth of the ruling Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), and local authorities are blamed for the repression.

The UN's commission stated that many locals were fleeing the country, including thousands of refugees who voluntarily returned in 2018.

"The Imbonerakure is omnipresent and actively and continuously monitors the population," said Lucy Asuagbor, a member of the commission.

Asuagbor said the security situation remained of great concern with increasing incidents and attacks between armed opposition groups and security forces on Burundian territory as well as border zones of neighbouring countries.

She regretted Burundi's closure of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the end of February.

The closure is the latest in a series of tiffs between the UN and Burundi after the 2015 crisis when President Pierre Nkurunziza forced a third term in 2015.

In a statement, Burundi rejected the UN commission's latest allegations as a political conspiracy.

"There had been attempts to present lies and libel that violated the guidelines of the commission's mandate," the government argued.

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