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Burundi’s human rights situation has not improved

by Sananda Dasgupta
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Burundi's human rights

Burundi’s human rights situation has not improved: UN report says

The human rights situation remains at risk of deteriorating in Burundi, a new United Nations report reveals. The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will formally present the report to the Human Rights Council on September 23.

The report says, there had been hardly any improvement in the human rights situation of the East African country under the rule of new President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

“The democratic space remains very narrow, impunity persists, and there is no indication that the level of human rights violations has abated under the new government,” the chief of the commission Doudou Diene said in a statement.

Francoise Hampson, a member of the commission said, during their inquiry, they found evidence of gross human rights abuse including summary execution, torture, and sexual violence. She said even after the election is over, in recent weeks there were killings, arbitrary detention, and disappearances.

The report released on Thursday said children and adolescents are often targeted by the ruling party. The youth league of the party, the Imbonerakure forces children to join the organization. They also harm children when their family members are real targets. 

The report also expressed concern about the appointment of cabinet members who face international sanctions for their involvement in human rights abuses.

Ndayishimiye has appointed Alain Guillaume Bunyoni as the Prime Minister and Gervais Ndirakobuca as the Security Minister. Both of them are under international sanctions for their role in human rights violations during the 2015 political unrest. 

Burundi’s human rights

Before Ndayishimiye, Burundi was ruled by his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza who assumed the office in 1995 after a 12-year civil war. In 2015, Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term. The opposition parties denounced it as unconstitutional and boycotted the poll.

Under the ruling of Nkurunziza, Burundi became the first country that withdrew from the International Criminal Court. The UN Human Rights office was also closed in the county. 

According to the UN reports, between April 2015 and May 2017, at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in Burundi.

The current president, Ndayishimiye held a number of offices under Nkurunziza and was endorsed by him as his successor ahead of the 2020 election which was held in May.

Nkurunziza declared Burundi had “divine protection” against the pandemic and shortly before the election he expelled the World Health Organization’s expert team from the country. 

Thursday’s report said, the current government appears to be taking the pandemic more seriously and urged them to resume cooperation with the World Health Organization.

The recommendations made by the Commission include the immediate release of the rights activists, journalists, and political prisoners.

The report highlighted the widespread financial mismanagement and high rate of poverty. It noted 74% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty, more than 95% of the population lack access to electricity, and the average length of schooling is a little over three years.

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