Category archives for: Burundi

Comoros, Burundi Apply to Join Regional Body

By Kizito Sikuka

Pretoria — One of the key issues to be discussed by the 37th SADC Summit to open 19 August in Pretoria, South Africa is to expand the membership of the regional organization.

This follows requests by the Union of Comoros and the Republic of Burundi to join the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

SADC – currently made up of 15 Member States – is one of the most stable and attractive regional economic communities in Africa.

Speaking ahead of the 37th SADC Summit, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said regional leaders will deliberate on whether the Comoros and Burundi should become the newest members of SADC.

“On the application by the Union of Comoros and the Republic of Burundi for membership to SADC, the SADC Council will receive the report from the meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation in respect of the applications from the two countries,” Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists.

The outcome of the SADC Council deliberations will the forwarded to the SADC Heads of States and Government Summit for final approval.

The two countries – Comoros and Burundi – have for the past years expressed interest in joining SADC and their admission would bring the admission of SADC to 17 members.

SADC presently comprises Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe

But, who exactly are these two members that want to join SADC?

The Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, off the eastern coast of Africa between north-eastern Mozambique and north-western Madagascar.

At 1,660 square kilometres in size, excluding the contested island of Mayotte, the Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by area, has a population of about 798,000 people.

As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilisations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history.

The country consists of three major islands and numerous smaller islands, all in the volcanic Comoros archipelago.

It became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1975.

Burundi is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the DRC to the west.

It is also part of the East African Community and its south-western border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.

Burundi was an independent kingdom until the beginning of the 20th century when Germany colonised the region.

After World War I in Europe and the defeat of Germany, it ceded the territory to Belgium. Germany, and then Belgium, ruled Burundi and Rwanda as a colony known as Ruanda-Urundi.

Burundi gained independence on 1 July 1962 under the leadership of Mwami Mwambutsa IV.

SADC – formerly the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) -was established on 1 April 1980 in Lusaka, Zambia when nine independent states signed a Declaration titled “Southern Africa: Towards Economic Liberation,” whose main objectives were to reduce dependence, particularly on apartheid South Africa, as well as secure international understanding and support.

Initially made up of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, SADC has grown to 15 members.

Close cooperation among the member states has seen the region achieve a number of milestones aimed at advancing political freedom into broader socio-economic independence that ensures improved living standards for its people.

No Improvement of Situation, Says Chairman of Commission of Inquiry On Burundi

By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

The Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights on Burundi will present the final report of its investigation in Geneva between the 18 and 19 September at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council. The chairman of the commission says the report will confirm that serious abuses continue to be committed in Burundi.

In an interview with UN Info on 16 August, Fatsah Ouguergouz, the chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi said UN investigators have received “no information about an improvement of the situation prevailing in Burundi, especially since the presentation of the oral report last June,” Ouguergouz said.

“However, we have received some testimony about allegations,” he said so adding that the information revealed serious violations similar to the content of the oral report presented last June in Geneva.

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present a report in Geneva from 18 to 19 September at the thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council. That report should confirm that serious abuses continue in Burundi, said Ouguergouz.

On 15 June, UN commission of inquiry emphasized the persistence of serious human rights violations in a climate of widespread fear.

“Several victims of torture by the police or the national intelligence service reported to the Commission that the abuses endured were accompanied by ethnic insults,” UN investigators said.

“Over two months later, the Commission has no reason to be less concerned. So no improvements to our knowledge, “said the chairman of the commission.

“We face a lack of Burundi authorities’ cooperation’

Ouguergouz also said the commission of inquiry still faces a lack of cooperation with Burundian authorities. The Government of Burundi refused the members of the Commission a visa to enter the country.

They traveled to neighboring countries, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where they investigated hundreds of thousands of Burundians who fled Burundi, said Ouguergouz.

“Again, we deplore the lack of cooperation with the Burundian authorities. Despite this, we have been able to work in difficult, but admittedly effective conditions, “said the Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry.

He said UN investigators were able to gather over 470 testimonies “. Depositions were gathered not only in countries bordering Burundi, but also in Burundi and other countries. “Through some sources, we have been able to gather testimony from victims or witnesses currently living in Burundi who have not left their country,” Ouguergouz said.

According to him, the mission of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Burundi is to document all these human rights violations in the country. “A work that can be useful in the fight against impunity, especially in the absence of possible recourse to Burundi itself,” he said.

By the end of last July, the National Independent Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) urged International Criminal Court (ICC) to cancel the preliminary examination on the alleged human rights violations in Burundi that it had launched on 25 April, 2016. “Burundian jurisdictions are enough experienced to deal with local judicial cases,” CNIDH Chairman Jean Baptiste Baribonekeza said.

CNIDH claimed that the crisis that Burundi has plunged into since 2015 is over now. “Criminality cases taking place in Burundi are similar to other cases happening in other countries”, Baribonekeza said.

The Human Rights Council has established the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi through Resolution 33/24 of 30 September 2016. Its mandate is to conduct a thorough investigation into human rights violations and abuses in Burundi since April 2015.

Burundi has plunged into a violent political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a controversial third term, which he won in contested elections in July 2015.

Imbonerakure Students Accused of Conducting Night Patrols On Mutanga Campus

By Bella Lucia Nininahazwe

At Mutanga Campus of Burundi University, students say they are seriously beaten by imbonerakure students when they go back to the campus late in the night. The campus security officer denies the students’ claim and appeals to them to conform to the university regulations.

The students accuse some imbonerakure students (students affiliated to the ruling party) of carrying out night patrols. “They are in groups of 15 to 30 students. They walk together during night. When they meet somebody who enters the campus late, they beat them savagely. Last week, they obliged a student to walk on knees after hitting him” said a young student met on the campus.

They deplore the fact that the imbonerakure students play the role of security agents while the university has its own security forces. They demand the security corps to take the issue seriously. “I think the guys have been hired. Nobody can accept to conduct night patrols without being paid. Furthermore, not all imbonerakure students are doing the job. We demand the authority to shed some light on this issue. People are beaten and no reaction from security authorities”, said another student on condition of anonymity.

Célestin Nibona -Bonasize, in charge of security at university campuses, says there are no students who carry out night patrols. “There are no Imbonerakure students who go on night patrols. The University has sufficient watchmen and police agents. Students are here to study not to work”

He appeals to students who live on campus to comply with the regulations that govern the university so that they can avoid any incident. “Students have to respect regulations of the institution according to which they have to be inside the campus before 3pm. They have to pass through the known entrance. There are only two known entrances. They have to collaborate because this is done for their own advantages”.

Students have expressed their worries after an incident that happened on Monday where two students were beaten while entering the campus late in the night.


CNARED Still Demands Negotiations to End Crisis

Members of the National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law-CNARED have recently held a… Read more »

CNARED Still Demands Negotiations to End Crisis

By Diane Uwimana

Members of the National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law-CNARED have recently held a three-day meeting in Belgium. Negotiations and consolidation of the members of the board were on the agenda.

The executive board of the main opposition in exile -CNARED met in Brussels- Belgium from 14 to 16 August. Their discussion was focused on negotiations and consolidation of the executive members of the platform.

“We are convinced that only negotiations will get Burundi out of the current crisis”, says Pancrace Cimpaye, the newly appointed spokesperson for CNARED. He also says they focused on the roadmap towards the preparation for the forthcoming negotiations. “There are some pertinent elements that need to be improved for better success”, he says.

On 24 July, the Crisis Management Initiative (ICM) organized consultations that lasted two days in Finland. The meeting was held behind closed doors and attended by the CNDD-FDD delegation led by Ombudsman Edouard Nduwimana and the members of CNARED executive board. Reliable sources said the consultations in Helsinki aimed to find a way out of the crisis.

During the three day meeting, the members of the CNARED Executive board analyzed the ongoing sanctions imposed by the West. “The sanctions are still of paramount importance to force Burundi Government to engage in an inclusive dialog”, he says.

The EU sanctions began in March 2016. The European organization, whose aid accounted for 20% of the budget, decided to freeze the direct aid granted to the government of Burundi, in accordance with Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement.”As Burundi government has not yet agreed to engage in peace talks, we exhort the AU, UN and EU to continue to impose sanctions. Maybe the international community will convince Burundi government to engage in negotiations”, he says.

The spokesperson for CNARED also says the executive board of the opposition platform has been consolidated. Some changes have been made to improve and strengthen the strategies that CNARED uses.

After two years of crisis, the dialogue led by the EAC is deadlocked. Various consultations have been scheduled and a roadmap has been established for the forthcoming negotiations. While the international community has so far shown its limits, opponents in exile on their side are struggling to show that they still exist.


Imbonerakure Students Accused of Conducting Night Patrols On Mutanga Campus

At Mutanga Campus of Burundi University, students say they are seriously beaten by imbonerakure students when they go… Read more »

‘Light On Ntega-Marangara Mass Murder Can Be Lesson for Future Generations"

opinionBy Bella Lucia Nininahazwe

Burundi has a number of black days, among them, August 15th 1988, a memorable date for many Burundians. More than 25 thousand people were killed in Ntega-Marangara mass slaughter. 29years after the massacre, victims and associations still demand truth and justice.

Between 25 and 50 thousand people were killed. According to some investigations by the local Association for the memory and protection of humanity against International crimes AMEPCI- Gira Ubuntu, the massacre was sparked by a fight in a bar and was extended in Ntega and Marangara communes of northern Kirundo and Ngozi provinces respectively; due to some tracts that there was a planned ethnic fight.

Aloys Batungwanayo, Chairperson of AMEPCI-Gira Ubuntu, appeals to the government and the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) to shed light on the massacre. He says the government should take advantage of the existence of some authorities of the time, victims and other eyewitnesses who would say something about what happened “The massacre happened almost one year after the accession to the power by President Buyoya. Some authorities of the time are still alive, survivors of the crime as well as security forces can be a great resource”, said Aloys Batungwanayo.

Aloys Batungwanayo,says the light on the massacres of Ntega- Marangara can be a good lesson for the next generation. “We need to know what happened so that we should prevent it from ever happening again.”

As for Jules Remezo, member of ADEN, an association for economic development of Ntega commune in Kirundo Northern Province, they have a feeling of disappointment and incomprehension given the way things are delaying: “It’s been 29 years now since the killings occurred and today’s generation is still asking about what happened. No light on the massacre has so far been thrown.”

Jules Remezo demands the TRC to accomplish its mission so that all Burundians know the truth about the tragic history of their country. “The TRC is doing its job but it has to redouble its efforts to satisfy all. All I can say is that there is still a long way to go.”

Ntega-Marangara massacre is one of the memorable mass slaughters that were committed in history of Burundi on the basis of ethnic conflict.


What Is the Value of Water?

When you and I breathe in fresh air, the amount I inhale affects you in no way. This is because air is abundant and so… Read more »

What Is the Value of Water?

opinionBy Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

When you and I breathe in fresh air, the amount I inhale affects you in no way. This is because air is abundant and so there’s plenty of it to go around. We actually take it for granted since it exists in copious amounts. Now, imagine a situation where there is limited supply of air, and yet, several pairs of lungs are waiting for their share. What do you think would happen? What would we do? Would we use it all up and suffocate, or would all those concerned brainstorm on how best to utilise this scarce resource while preserving its quality? One thing for sure, is that we would all realise how valuable it is when its supply is threatened.

Unlike air, water is a finite commodity. In the Nile Basin, for example, one water body – the River Nile – is shared by 11 countries. This resource is a source of livelihood for millions of people within the Nile Basin. It caters for their water, food and energy needs among others. The latter three are a complex interconnected synergy around which several factors revolve including economic growth, urbanisation, climate change, population growth and public policies.

Economic growth, for example, has agriculture as its biggest driving force in most of the countries in the Nile Basin. This sector employs about 80 percent of the population in mostly upstream Nile Basin countries and accounts for up to 90 percent of water withdrawals, in Egypt and Sudan.

Considering the limited supply of water and how important it is for not only irrigation but all aspects of life, what value can be attached to water? Take this scenario; In order to practice agriculture, a farmer needs water, capital, labour and land in varying quantities. If two different farmers, farmer A and farmer B grew wheat and cassava, they’d have to take the amount of the four factors invested into the business in order to determine the price of the goods.

Imagine that the production of a kilogramme of wheat and cassava costs farmer A $50 and $70, respectively, while they cost farmer B $60 and $40, respectively. Customers would obviously go to the one with a lower price. And yet, the two farmers cannot lower their prices any further because the cost of production would outstrip the cost of sale by far.

If, say, farmer B shifted to growing cassava, which is a lot cheaper for him to produce than wheat, he’d be wise to continue specialising in it, while farmer A specializes in wheat production. Farmer B would have a comparative advantage in growing cassava than he did in wheat, which would bring down his costs considerably. In this case, the two farmers are maximising benefits from the water based on comparative advantage, which is the efficient use. It is, however, important to note that factors such as geographical location and climate change greatly contribute to a farmer’s comparative advantage.

A crucial policy environment that the two farmers need in such a situation is the facilitation of exchanging the surpluses of the two goods.

Likewise, if the countries in the Nile Basin cooperated to engage in one activity and produced that product for which they have a comparative advantage, this would encourage trade amongst the Member States as well as maximise water usage. Such cooperation would ensure food security because countries would produce more crops by taking into consideration factors such as the hydrology of the water resource. To this end, healthy competition is best when it comes to scarce resources.Water is essential to life, making its total economic value immeasurable. Just because there’s no price doesn’t mean there’s no value.

Governor of Bubanza Narrowly Escaped From Ambush

By Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

The Governor of Bubanza ran into an ambush staged by unidentified armed people in the evening of Tuesday 15 August. The incident took place in Gihanga Commune along Bujumbura-Cibitoke road, in the west of Burundi. Police say no one was killed or injured in the attack.

Gunfire was heard yesterday evening at around 8 pm in Gihanga Commune of Bubanza Province on the National Road (RN5) commonly called Bujumbura-Cibitoke road, say Gihanga residents. They say a group of people armed with guns ambushed the vehicle of Tharcisse Niyongabo , Governor of Bubanza.

The governor said those who tried to murder him were not identified. He said he is going to collaborate with security forces to improve security on the Bujumbura-Cibitoke road.

Pierre Nkurikiye, the police spokesman, describes those who ambushed the vehicle of the Governor of Bubanza as armed robbers. “It’s a group of bandits. They are the ones who often ambush vehicles to steal passengers’ belongings”, Nkurikiye said.

He said that despite the rapid intervention of the security forces, the criminals were not identified. “The Governor’s bodyguards fired on the attackers and the latter retreated to the Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.

He said the attack did not cause any damage except the governor’s vehicle which was hit by the bullets.

Nkurikiye denies rumors that the attack was allegedly carried out by Burundian rebels based on Congolese soil. According to Nkurikiye, the ambush staged yesterday on the RN5 did not target the Governor of Bubanza. “The criminals fired on the governor’s vehicle without knowing it. They had ambushed any vehicle that passes to steal passengers, as they often do, “said Nkurikiye.

A person was killed and another injured in an ambush on the same road on 24 July.


Youths Arrested While Going to Tanzania

At least thirty-six young people were arrested on Wednesday 16 August in Ruhororo Commune of Ngozi northern province.… Read more »

70 Burundian Refugees Return in Pilot Project of Repatriation

By Bella Lucia Nininahazwe

The governments of Burundi and DRC alongside UNHCR launched a pilot project of repatriation of Burundian refugees. On August 14th, 70 refugees from 24 families were voluntarily repatriated from Lusenda refugee camp in the DR Congo.

A convoy trucks carrying 70 refugees crossed the border to Burundi in Gatumba accompanied by CNR (Norwegian Council of Refugee), UN Refugee agency and Congolese authorities. Congolese authorities handed them to the Burundian ones at Gatumba border. They were conducted to UNHCR transitional center in Kajaga where they will spent a night before being brought back to their localities of origin the next day.

The spokesperson of the Minister of the Interior says they are pleased to see them coming back: “We are happy to welcome them in their country. We demand the administration and the whole community to welcome them with open arms” said Therence Ntahiraja, the spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior.

Repatriated refugees say they are happy to return in their country “I fled the crisis in 2015. There is no life in the camp. We have nothing to do; we wait for the help which is not sufficient. Every person is given USD15 per month. I am happy to come back in my country” said a young man

UNHCR facilitates the return of these refugees. They are given some food, other items like mosquito nets, soaps… and a financial aid equivalent to 60 dollar per person as well. “When refugees express a will to return, we facilitate their return. We assist them with a return pack which equals to some food, some items and other financial means. We will do our best to make sure everyone who expresses a will to return in his country is facilitated” said Soufiane Adjali, the vice representative of HCR in Burundi.

UNHCR says more than 400 thousand Burundian refugees are still in the neighbouring countries namely Kenya, Ouganda, Mozambique, Zambie, Malawi and Tanzania. The latter hosts more than 240 thousand of all of them.

Lusenda refugee camp is located in south Kivu province in the territory of Fizzi and hosts more than three thousands Burundian Refugees.


2020 – Is President Nkurunziza Already at it Again?

The government claims Burundi is safe, that political disagreements have been resolved, and that the people want term… Read more »

Corruption Watchdog Calls On President to Cancel Request of U.S.$ 32.6 Million Loan

[Iwacu] In a letter sent to Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza on 9 August, the chairman of the Observatory for the Fight against Corruption and Embezzlement (OLUCOME) expressed his concerns about a credit equivalent to US% 32.6 million to be granted by the Chinese Bank ‘Exim Bank’. This appropriation will be used to complete the digital television migration project.

2020 – Is President Nkurunziza Already at it Again?

analysisBy Lorraine Nkengurutse

The government claims Burundi is safe, that political disagreements have been resolved, and that the people want term limits removed ahead of 2020.

Two years since Burundi was plunged into violent political crisis, there are two diametrically opposing narratives being told about the current situation.

If you listen to the government, the country has recovered from the clashes and mass displacements that engulfed it from 2015. Things are now secure and back to normal, they say.

“Burundi has gained peace and stability,” said President Pierre Nkurunziza on a visit to Tanzania last month. His Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, similarly commented: “I urge Burundians to remain in their country. I have been assured the place is now calm.”

However, listen to local human rights groups or international observers and a very different picture emerges.

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council expressed its “deep concern” over Burundi’s worsening humanitarian situation. In June, a UN commission of inquiry emphasised the “persistence of serious human rights violations in a climate of widespread fear”. Meanwhile, a recent report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) claimed the ongoing crisis has now left at least 1,200 dead and seen the imprisonment of 10,000 people for political reasons.

This disagreement is not just a battle over narratives, but over the actions now needed to move Burundi forwards.

Burundi’s crisis

Burundi descended into crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a controversial third term. Mass protests ensued, followed by a failed coup in May. Despite claims the move was unconstitutional, Nkrununziza went on to contest and win the July 2015 elections.

Violent attacks and assassinations followed. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced, news outlets were shut down, and foreign journalists expelled.

In response to this deadly turmoil, several international and regional organisations demanded that the Burundian government and opposition engage in a dialogue to restore peace.

Proper talks, however, have never taken off. Despite arranging four rounds of negotiations, regional mediators from the East African Community (EAC) have failed to get the government and opposition at the same table. The ruling CNDD-FDD insist that they will not negotiate with members of CNARED, the main opposition coalition in exile, accusing them of participating in the failed May 2015 coup.

“The process is moving slowly owing to the reluctance of the Government of Burundi to talk to its opponents,” said former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, the lead facilitator of the negotiations, in a statement this May.

Earlier this month, a delegation close to the government reportedly held near-secret talks with representatives from the opposition in exile in Finland. Some are optimistic that this suggests a revival of the talks, but the government distanced itself from the reports and the outcomes remain to be seen.

Internal talks

In Mkapa’s recent statement, he also expressed particular concerns over the government’s demands to “repatriate” the dialogue to Burundi. He explained that the CNDD-FDD is now resisting the externally-mediated talks, claiming that security conditions have been met and that questions around the constitution and 2020 elections have already been answered internally.

Indeed, on 12th May, the government received an 86-page report submitted by the National Commission for Internal Dialogue (CNDI) on these political matters. The body had been established unilaterally by the regime in October 2015 in order to consult the population. The researchers surveyed the opinions of 26,000 citizens and came up with recommendations.

Foremost among them is a proposal to change the constitution. According to the commission’s chair, Bishop Justin Nzoyisaba, “The majority of Burundians consulted support the suppression of the presidential term limits and stand for the amendment of the constitution”.

This apparent finding has led to a shift in the government’s focus, from the peace talks to the 2020 elections. Upon receiving the report, President Nkurunziza appointed a national commission to propose constitutional changes. In June, Burundi’s Ombudsman organised political retreats to discuss the outlook for the 2020 polls, the political and security situation, and the possibility of amending the constitution.

Furthermore, on 1 July, the anniversary of Burundi’s independence, Nkurunziza launched an election fundraiser. He called on citizens to help raise money so that the country would not have to rely on international support as was the case in 2015. “They promised to help us organising 2015 elections, but they suspended their funding just one week before the elections took place,” he said.

Removing term limits for Burundi 2020?

The government’s insistence that Burundi is stable and its growing indifference towards external peace talks have alarmed regional mediators.

“The [ruling] Party does not see any logic of continuing with the Inter-Burundi Dialogue to Burundi because the National Commission for Internal Dialogue (CNDI) has already finalized everything,” said Mkapa. “This volte-face in the thinking of the ruling Party surprised everybody and was viewed as a set back to the on-going peace process.”

Opposition and civil society activists are also critical of the government’s approach and plans.

Jean Claude Nkundwa, a local conflict resolution expert, says the government is deliberately trying to avoid external involvement. Amongst other things, he says that the Nkurunziza administration’s intention is “to exclude political opponents in exile from 2020 election process”.

Charles Nditije, chair of CNARED, also claims that the government is trying to shrug off observers and deceive the Burundian people and international community into believing that the past disputes have already been settled. “The government plans to distract us from our commitment to resolve the current political crisis,” he says.

According to the UN, there are over 200,000 internally displaced persons in Burundi. Three million people are in need of humanitarian support. And over 416,000 Burundians are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and are too afraid to return.

The worry now is that Nkurunziza is taking advantage of the very uncertainty created by his 2015 bid for power in order to try it all again in 2020.

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