Posts tagged as: human-rights

Review Burundi’s Membership in Top UN Rights Body – HRW

press release

Human Rights Watch welcomes the report and the oral update of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

The Commission of inquiry recently confirmed “the persistence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence in Burundi since April 2015.” The Commission attributes most of these violations to members of the National Intelligence Service, the police, the army and the youth league of the ruling party, known as Imbonerakure, findings confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

Instead of facing up to its responsibilities under international law, the Burundian government is in complete denial. High-level officials repeatedly state that Burundi is “peaceful” and “calm,” and rebuke all criticism as an obscure “conspiracy.” As one Burundian activist in exile told us: “It really hurts to hear our government say such things.”

As a member of this Council, Burundi has an obligation to uphold the highest standards of human rights, and to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms. Yet, Burundi’s blatant refusal to cooperate with the Commission – even to just open its doors for access – shows its disrespect for the Council, and for its membership responsibilities.

In addition, it has suspended its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Commission of Inquiry has concluded, on reasonable grounds, that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi.

A sitting Council member found to have committed crimes against humanity, and to have violated every membership standard, brings this body into disrepute. The Council should call on the General Assembly to suspend Burundi’s membership, or at least to consider the issue in the light of the findings of the COI.

As the political crisis in Burundi drags on, prospects for human rights improvement are bleak. It is therefore critical for the Council to extend the Commission’s mandate, so it can give the victims in Burundi the attention they deserve, and bring increased attention to the need for accountability, with a view to putting a brake on the worst abuses and paving the way towards justice.


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Burundi – Target for ICC?

By Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

The UN Commission of Inquiry released a report on Monday (September 4th). It requests the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Burundi.

The Commission refers to “an organized plan in the pursuit of a common policy.” This is a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population. This suggests that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi since April 2015. The commission’s report mentions extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence. The list of abuses is long.

According to the commission, “major decisions, including those leading to serious violations of human rights, would be taken not by the government but by the President of the Republic and a handful of generals.”

The president of the commission, Fatsah Ouguergouz, also targets officials at the highest level of the state, senior officers and agents of the defense and security forces as well as the youth of the ruling party Cndd-Fdd, the Imbonerakure. According to him, these alleged perpetrators are aware of this plan, given their functions in the state security apparatus or their indoctrination within Cndd-Fdd. Targets were especially members of Msd and Fnl parties as well as soldiers of the former army Ex FAB.

Bujumbura dismisses a “biased” report

In order to reach the conclusions of its report, the commission visited Burundi’s neighboring countries. More than 500 interviews were conducted. However, it calls for more cooperation so far refused by the government.

Among the recommendations of the commission are individual sanctions against the main perpetrators presumed by the Security Council. To this end, the commission produced a secret and non-exhaustive list of these suspects which will be confided to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The International Criminal Court is called on to launch an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015, a date that marks the start of protests against the candidacy of President Nkurunziza.

The failed coup as well as the attacks on four military camps are decisive factors in the escalation of violence in 2015.

The Burundian government rejected this report. The Minister of Human Rights, Martin Nivyabandi spoke of a biased report that does not take into account the obvious improvement in the country’s situation. The Minister of Justice, Aimé-Laurentine Kanyana, said the ICC cannot do anything better than the Burundian jurisdiction. The National Assembly, for its part, decided to set up a commission to investigate the allegations in the report.

In any case, if the prosecution is to take place, the ICC has only one month to get started. Burundi withdrew from the International Criminal Court on 27 October 2016. Its final withdrawal will take place on 27 October.


Willy Nyamitwe: “Mercenaries paid to validate a narrative.”

The Senior Adviser to the President says the report’s producers are not investigators but mercenaries paid to validate a narrative that’s already circulating in some Western reports. According to Willy Nyamitwe, these reports aim to pave the way for the ICC, an instrument in the hands of the West to enslave African states.

François Nyamoya: ” MSD party is confident that justice will be done. “

For the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy- MSD, the report confirms what was known to the public. The members of Msd are very numerous among the victims of the abuses committed by the regime in place. François Nyamoya, Secretary-General of the party, said that the MSD is confident that justice will be done.

Cndd-Fdd party: “The aim of the report is to get the ICC started.”

The National Information Secretary of the ruling party CNDD-FDD says the report largely copies and pastes the conclusions of the report of the UN independent investigation on Burundi (EINUB), criticized for its imperfections.

According to Nancy Ninette Mutoni, this new commission of inquiry was set up on the basis of a resolution issued by the European Union diktat. “This report should not impress or surprise anyone. Its objective is to get the ICC started and you know what it is in relation to Africa: a rather political instrument than a juridical one”, she said.

Armel Niyongere: “Torturers are paper tigers.”

This lawyer of the families of victims who have gone to the ICC says there are still more witnesses waiting to collaborate with the judiciary. “This report shows that torturers are paper tigers when faced with determined and organized victims.”The collective of civil parties “Justice for Burundi”, of which Armel Niyongere is a member, places all its hopes in the opening of the investigations by the International Criminal Court. “We believe that the work of justice will contribute to the pacification of the region to avoid further massacres.”

>>International Organizations

Amnesty International: “The commission’s term should be renewed.”

This organization indicates that a serious violation of human rights persists in a more hidden but equally brutal way. Amnesty International says the work of the Commission of Inquiry is more necessary than ever. “Its term should be renewed by the Human Rights Council at its next session in September”, says Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch: “Cooperating is not an option.”

John Fisher, the advocacy director for the organization at Geneva, said that Burundi’s flagrant refusal to cooperate was a sign of its contempt for the commission. “That’s enough. “He said the Human Rights Council should renew the mandate of the commission. The General Assembly, for its part, should reconsider the membership of Burundi in that body. “Cooperating is not an option but a condition to be respected. There should be consequences for persistent non-compliance. “

Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

South Africa: Health Minister Diagnoses Weakness in Wake of Cancer Treatment Crisis


Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi diagnosed what he identified as the underlying causes of the crisis in treatment of KZN cancer patients, namely weaknesses in the provincial human resources processes and anomalies peculiar to KZN in its procurement supply chain systems. But while he is awaiting a report from the MEC for Treasury on the failed maintenance of the oncology machines at Addington hospital, and for a list of the number of posts that need to be filled, the SA Human Rights Commission identified these issues in its investigation concluded two months ago. By MOIRA LEVY.

First published by Notes from the House

The Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi responded this week to the SA Human Rights Committee’s damning investigation into the treatment of cancer patients in KwaZulu-Natal.

Motsoaledi immediately diagnosed what he identified as the underlying causes, namely weaknesses in the provincial human resources processes and anomalies peculiar to KZN in its procurement supply chain systems.

At the same time he made it clear that the department had been made aware of the problem at least a month before the intervention in June by the SAHRC brought the situation to the attention of the public.

Which raises the question:…

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Commission of Inquiry Urges ICC to Investigate Crimes Against Humanity

By Diane Uwimana

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi believes that crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed in Burundi since April 2015. Following the report published last Monday, the commission reported that those crimes are taking place in a context of serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearances.

Fatsah Ouguergouz, chairperson of the commission said that among the perpetrators include high level officials from the National Intelligence Service and the national police force, military officials, and members of the youth league of the ruling party-Imbonerakure. “We were struck by the scale and the brutality of the violations. We fear that the crimes will remain unpunished”, he says.

The commission of Inquiry accused the Burundian authorities of being unwilling to fight against impunity and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.

The commission reported to have gathered, in difficult situations, about 500 testimonies including many Burundians living abroad as refugees and those who remain in the country.

The chairman of the commission also confirmed that the human rights violations continue to be committed in Burundi.

“We continue to receive reliable, credible and consistent information confirming that these violations are still taking place in Burundi today”, says Ouguergouz.

The Commission calls on Burundian authorities to immediately put an end to the serious human rights violations. It also demands ICC to open an investigations into the crimes committed in Burundi as soon as possible.


 Willy Nyamitwe, Senior advisor in charge of Media, Information and communication to the President refutes the UN experts. “These people act as mercenaries used and paid by the west for political motives”, he said in his tweet.

 Lambert Nigarura, Chairman of the Burundi coalition for the ICC, says the report of the UN commission is complete as it largely reveals crimes committed by different people including the members of the security forces and the ruling party youth-Imbonerakure. “The UN report showed its techniques to reveal the truth. Then, it is high time the ICC opened investigations into crimes committed in Burundi”, he says. For him, the perpetrators will be punished and the victims compensated given that the UN commission will present its final report with credible evidence.

The Commission of Inquiry will present its final report to the Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue on Burundi on 18 and 19 September 2017. Meanwhile, the UN report on human rights raised controversy among MPs last week when some MPs supported its contents while others dismissed the allegations it contains.

In April 2016, the ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Burundi from April 2015. Burundi withdrew from the ICC in October 2016. The government also suspended its collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in response to a UN report that accused the government of grave human rights violations


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Loliondo Residents Want PM to Intervene in Land Dispute

By Louis Kolumbia

Dar es Salaam — Loliondo residents have asked for Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa intervention in the ongoing land dispute that has prompted demolition of hundreds of houses in the area.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday August 31 here, a representative of local government chairpersons, Mr Lazaro Sikoyo, said the Premier’s intervention was necessary to halt ongoing demolition of households and ensure findings of a probe committee he formed is published.

“Tourism and Natural Resources minister, police and government officers should stop intimidating human rights defenders and the local community advocating for their rights. The Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRGG) should comprehensively investigate human rights violations and take appropriate measures,” he pleaded.

He said the government through Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development ministry should be part of government institutions resolving the dispute and that human rights defenders, media, international organisations, local leaders and the elite should also join forces in addressing the problem.

A youth representative, Mr Kipilangati Kaura, said land dispute in the area existed for 26 years and that residents were evicted from the 4,036 square kilometres available for human settlement out of 14,036 square kilometers the district has.

According to him, 8,300 square kilometres was reserved for Ngorongoro Conservation Area, while 1,700 square kilometres was reserved for by Lake Natron ecosystem.

“The dispute has seen 19 people arrested, 11 others seriously injured by firearms. Over 5,800 households have been vandalised leaving more than 20,000 people homeless and that about 1,200 livestock have been seized by authorities some have died of hunger and congestion. Over 133 cattle and 281 sheep and goat have gone missing,” he said.

Residents believe demolition was supposed to affect households built inside reserved area, but they have evidence of houses demolished in 14 villages that were built far from the reserved area.


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Hate Speech Stirs Trouble in Burundi

Bujumbura — Next month, the Commission of Enquiry on Burundi, established by the UN Human Rights Council, is due to deliver its final report on abuses in the central African state and to make a judgement as to whether these abuses, including killings, torture, and abduction, amount to international crimes.

The commission has highlighted the prevalence of hate speech in Burundi, notably by the ruling party and its affiliates, saying such rhetoric, which often targets specific ethnic groups, “reinforced” human rights abuses. It has called for the state to take action against perpetrators.

In 2015, an announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would stand for a controversial third term plunged the country into crisis, marked by violent clashes between protestors and security forces, a failed coup, and the flight of hundreds of thousands of people out of the country.

Burundi continues to present numerous risk factors of further violent destabilisation and hate speech remains widespread, especially on social media, while authorities appear to being doing little to curtail it.

Facebook posts and comments, some using pseudonyms others by people apparently using their real names, routinely contain blatant incitement to violence.

“Hutus are filth and we will keep killing them if the opportunity presents itself,” read one recent Facebook post by someone calling himself “Ntwari Alexis”. The profile picture shows a man sitting on an armoured car brandishing the national flag of Burundi.

Since “Ntwari” means “brave man” in the Kirundi language, the name is presumably fake. The post appeared the day after the second anniversary of the assassination in a rocket attack in Bujumbura of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, a former intelligence chief and right-hand man to Nkurunziza.

Role reversal

During Burundi’s 1993-2006 civil war, which pitted a range of Hutu rebel groups against the Tutsi-led government and army, Nshimirimana served as the military commander of the CNDD-FDD, a Hutu insurgency that transformed itself into the political party now in power.

On Twitter, one Diana Nsamirizi wrote recently of the country’s Tutsi minority (who dominated power between independence and the end of the civil war): “Now it’s your turn. I want you to flee [the country] and see what it’s like. You’re conceitedness will end one day.”

Another poster on Facebook wrote: “All the problems the country has had were caused by the Tutsi… The Tutsi are difficult to live with. They are proud. They overestimate themselves. They are the descendants of Cain. The Tutsi massacred Hutus in 1968, 1972, 1994-2004. We must not forget these troubles and above all those who caused them.”


A message posted by a 20-strong group on the social media network in mid-June went even further, declaring: “We are determined to fight the mujeri until they give up their beastly ways.” The Kirundi word mujeri is a derogatory term for stray, dirty dogs, in this case applied to opponents of the regime.

“Mujeri are little dogs which bite people,” the Facebook post continued. “To eradicate the mujeri, they must be chased, even in their hiding places.”

Specific threats

In yet another post, “mujeri” was applied to certain prominent foreigners in Burundi, including US Ambassador Ann Casper: “Behead those mujeri,” wrote someone using the name “Eustache Tiger”, a vocal supporter of the president.

Also among the targets of violent threats has been former president Domitien Ndayizeye, after he spoke out against the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth wing, which gained notoriety earlier this year when 100 of its marching members chanted that female opposition supporters should be raped or even killed. Human Rights Watch has accused the Imbonerakure of being involved in the gang rapes of women and the torture of opposition members.

After the former president criticised the slogans of the youth wing, Sylvestre Ndayizeye (no relation), who coordinates associations affiliated with the ruling party, warned his namesake that should he continue to “insult” the Imbonerakure, “we will deal with him”. He used the Kirundi verb “gukorerako”, which in the slang of the youth wing, which harks back to the language used by rebels during the civil war, means to kill.

Burundi’s penal code outlaws such declarations, according to jurist Pacifique Manirambona. “The state prosecutor or his office is supposed to take up such matters, initiate investigations, and prosecute those behind such hate speech,” he told IRIN.

“Defamation, or hatred against a group or people or a segment of the population, causes social problems and endangers lives. Insults or describing individuals or groups as animals [or] cartoons depicting people as animals are degrading and should be punished under law,” he added. As well as “stray dogs”, targets of hate speech in Burundi have been described as snakes, refuse, and excrement.


Political scientist Jean-Marie Ntahimpera warned that resorting to animal terminology was “very dangerous. We saw it during the [1994] genocide in Rwanda. The Tutsi were called inyenzi, cockroaches, before being killed.”

Dehumanisation is one of the 10 stages of genocide identified by Gregory H. Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch. According to The Genocide Report, “dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder… . [One group] is taught to regard the other group as less than human, and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that ‘We are better off without them.’ They are equated with filth, impurity, and immorality.”

That dehumanisation, and other phenomena among the 10 stages, such as “classification”, “symbolisation”, “polarisation”, and mass rapes, are visible in Burundi does not mean the country is heading towards a genocide. But, as the Human Rights Council pointed out, it does make acting against perpetrators all the more important.

Yet, according to Manirambona, the jurist, nobody in Burundi has ever been prosecuted for hate speech.

Worse still, it is not uncommon for those who do post hate speech on social media to receive messages of support from government officials. Senior presidential aide Willy Nyamitwe, for example, congratulated Sylvestre Ndayizeye over his remarks, even though they were widely interpreted as an overt death threat.

Politically Closed Elections

press release

Nairobi — Presidential elections in Rwanda on August 4, 2017, took place in a context of very limited free speech or open political space, Human Rights Watch said today, as President Paul Kagame is sworn in for a seven-year term. Human Rights Watch released a chronology of violations of the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Rwanda between the country’s December 2015 referendum – allowing the president to run for a third term – and the election, which Kagame won with a reported 98.79 percent of the vote.

“Kagame’s landslide win came as no surprise in a context in which Rwandans who have dared raise their voices or challenge the status quo have been arrested, forcibly disappeared, or killed, independent media have been muzzled, and intimidation has silenced groups working on civil rights or free speech,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Yet the Rwandan authorities took no chances with the presidential vote, as repression continued in recent months despite the weak prospects for any opposition candidate.”

In the days following the vote, Human Rights Watch spoke with local activists and private citizens who spoke of intimidation and irregularities in both the lead-up to the election and during the voting. In Rutsiro district, in Western Province, donations to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were mandatory. “Nobody could escape this order,” said one voter. “It was organized through the National Electoral Commission.”

Another voter, also from Rutsiro, said that he was forced to vote in the presence of a National Electoral Commission official. “After verifying my name on the voting list, I was told to vote then and there in front of him,” the voter said. “It was easy to see who I was voting for on the ballot, so it was impossible for me to vote for anyone besides Kagame.”

A person monitoring the vote in Nyamagabe District, in the south, said he saw voting officials sign ballots for at least 200 people who did not show up to vote. All the votes went to the RPF.

On August 5, the US State Department released a statement citing “irregularities observed during voting.” On August 6, the European Union released a statement supporting the peaceful elections but adding: “in view of future elections, the EU expects further efforts to increase the inclusiveness and transparency of the process, in particular as regards the registration of the candidates, the tabulation of results and other prerequisites for achieving a level playing field.”

Three candidates contested the elections: Kagame (Rwandan Patriotic Front, RPF); Frank Habineza (Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, DGPR); and an independent candidate, Philippe Mpayimana. Both Habineza and Mpayimana said they experienced harassment, threats, and intimidation after announcing their candidacy. Neither posed a serious challenge to President Kagame. Mpayimana won 0.73 percent of the vote and Habineza won 0.48 percent.

A person who monitored the campaign in Musanze, Burera, and Rulindo districts, in the Northern Province, said that local security forces went door-to-door in various neighborhoods before the vote, telling people not to participate in Habineza’s campaign rallies. “It was too much of a risk for most people to go to the rally and listen to what [Habineza] had to say,” he said, “so only a few people dared to go.”

Two other would-be independent candidates, Diana Rwigara and Gilbert Mwenedata, said that they had fulfilled eligibility requirements of 600 signatures supporting their candidacy, including 12 from each of the 30 districts. But the National Electoral Commission rejected their efforts to register, claiming that many of the signatures were invalid. Another potential candidate, Thomas Nahimana, a Catholic prelate turned politician, was denied access to Rwanda in January when he tried to enter from France, where he now lives.

On August 3, Rwigara told the BBC Kinyarwanda service, which is banned in Rwanda, that five of her supporters had been arrested for wearing t-shirts supporting her political campaign. The supporters were later released.

Kagame himself boasted that the election results were already known during a campaign rally in Ruhango district, in Southern Province, in mid-July. “I am very pleased because we are already aware of the results of the elections,” he said. “Anyone who says that results are not known is lying. The results were already known since December 2015.”

On December 18, 2015, Rwandans overwhelmingly approved amendments to the constitution to allow Kagame to run again – a third term had not been permitted under the previous constitution. According to the official results, 98.3 percent of the 98 percent of registered voters who participated in the referendum voted in favor of the amendments.

The referendum followed attacks on suspected political and military opponents in the years since the RPF came to power in 1994, including murders both inside and outside of Rwanda.

In the period between the referendum and the August 2017 presidential elections, Human Rights Watch documented an ongoing pattern of harassment, arrests, and detention of opposition party leaders and supporters, activists, and journalists. Several were forcibly disappeared or prosecuted after making comments critical of the current government or ruling party.

Human Rights Watch has documented that poor people, critics of government decisions regarding land disputes, and suspected petty criminals have been arbitrarily arrested, held in illegal detention centers, and in some cases executed, forcibly disappeared, tortured, or mistreated. These tactics ensure that citizens are afraid to speak out against the government.

The revised constitution, among other things, reduces presidential terms to five years, renewable only once, after a transitional seven-year term starting in 2017. It also reset the clock on presidential terms already served. It allowed Kagame to run for a third seven-year term in 2017 and will allow him to run for two five-year terms, in 2024 and 2029, opening the possibility of extending his rule until 2034.

The process was initiated by a series of petitions in which more than 3.78 million people claimed to support extending Kagame’s stay in office. Parliament, after national consultations, unanimously approved the amendments. The opposition DGPR lost a case before the Supreme Court challenging the proposal, and was the only registered political party to oppose the constitutional amendments.

“Rwanda’s donors and partners should take a stronger stance against the government’s many measures to clamp down on free expression and quash dissent, and make clear that there will be consequences,” Sawyer said. “While the country has made remarkable economic and development progress since the genocide that devastated the country in 1994, it should not come at the cost of the Rwandan people’s most fundamental freedoms.”

Chronology of Rwanda’s Closing Space

The following charts several key political developments between January 2016 and August 2017, including many threats to and violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Rwanda leading up to presidential elections on August 4, 2017. The list is not exhaustive. Human Rights Watch documented several other cases that are not included because the people concerned feared repercussions if their situation is publicized.


January 1

President Paul Kagame announces his intention to run again.

January 29

John Williams Ntwali, one of Rwanda’s few investigative journalists, is arrested and accused of raping a minor. Judicial officials later changed the charge to indecent assault and eventually dropped the case for lack of evidence. Ntwali had been investigating several sensitive issues, including the death of Assinapol Rwigara, a businessman and father of would-be independent presidential candidate Diana Rwigara, whose candidacy was later rejected. Ntwali had been arrested several times before, and his website blocked by a government regulator, apparently because of his critical reporting.

February 3

Police confiscate the computers of East African newspaper journalists Ivan Mugisha and Moses Gahigi. They had been investigating cases of alleged tax evasion and corruption. The police briefly detained and questioned Mugisha.

February 8 – March 22

Local elections take place, at the level of the cell, district, and the city of Kigali – the capital. Several participants allege voter intimidation.

February 9

Ntwali is released.

February 29

The Rwandan government withdraws its declaration allowing individuals to file complaints with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the grounds that the remedy was being exploited by convicted genocide fugitives. The court had been due to hear a complaint against Rwanda, brought by Victoire Ingabire, president of the Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi, an opposition party, serving a 15-years sentence after a flawed trial based partly on politically motivated charges.

March 26

Léonille Gasengayire, a FDU-Inkingi member, is arrested after visiting Ingabire in prison.

March 26

Illuminée Iragena, a nurse and FDU-Inkingi member, is reported missing. There has been no news of her since. People close to her fear she may have died in detention. Iragena is married to Martin Ntavuka, the FDU-Inkingi’s former Kigali representative, who has been arrested at least twice since 2010 in connection with his political activities.

March 29

The police release Gasengayire, after beating and questioning her about a book she had attempted to bring to Ingabire in detention. She had also revealed that Iragena had been involved in trying to get the book to Ingabire.

March 31

A military court sentences Col. Tom Byabagamba, former head of the presidential guard, and retired Brig. Gen. Frank Rusagara, former secretary general of the Defense Ministry, to 21 and 20 years in prison respectively, including for inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image. The prosecution accused them of criticizing the government, alleging state involvement in assassinations of opponents, and complaining about foreign and economic policy. A prosecution witness said he was forced to testify against the two. Retired Sgt. François Kabayiza, found guilty of concealing evidence, is sentenced to five years. He said in court that military personnel had tortured him in detention.

April 13

An intelligence agent questions Epimack Kwokwo, former executive secretary of the Regional Human Rights League in the Great Lakes Region (Ligue des droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs, LDGL), a regional nongovernmental organization that works on human rights issues, for several hours about his legal status in Rwanda and his work for the organization.

May 1

Bernard Ntaganda, an opposition leader, is arrested on suspicion that his party, the Social Party (PS)-Imberakuri, which has been unable to register, had wanted to organize a party meeting. He is charged with disobeying the enforcement of the law, organizing an illegal demonstration or public gathering, and illegal formation and leadership of a political organization, but is released the same day. Ntaganda had previously been arrested on June 24, 2010, and found guilty on February 11, 2011, of endangering national security, “divisionism” – inciting ethnic divisions – and attempting to organize demonstrations without official authorization. On appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the first two charges. He was released from prison in June 2014.

May 19

Caroline Buisman, Ingabire’s Dutch lawyer in her case at the African Court, is expelled from Rwanda. She had been in the country with a tourist visa because the immigration authorities had not granted her a regular visa. Over the years, Rwanda has expelled and refused entry to several international human rights lawyers, journalists, and researchers.

May 28

Immigration services order Kwokwo, LDGL’s former executive secretary and a Congolese national, to leave the country.

August 8

John Ndabarasa, a journalist at Sana Radio in Kigali, is reported missing. He is last seen in Kicukiro.

August 23

Gasengayire is rearrested and charged with inciting insurrection or disorder among the population, in relation to her opposition to the expropriation of local residents’ land and of promoting the FDU-Inkingi.

August 30

Police tell news media that they opened an investigation into Ndabarasa’s disappearance, after the Rwanda Media Commission, a media self-regulation body, informed them about the case.

September 18

Théophile Ntirutwa, Kigali representative of the FDU-Inkingi, is arrested, allegedly by military, in Nyarutarama, a Kigali suburb.

September 20

Ntirutwa is released, after being beaten and questioned about his membership in the FDU-Inkingi. Ntirutwa had previously complained several times to authorities about threats and harassment by local officials, including because of his opposition to the constitutional amendments.

Late September

A European Parliament delegation that visits Rwanda is denied access to visit Ingabire in detention.

October 8

The authorities arrest Joseph Nkusi, a Rwandan blogger deported from Norway, and question him about his political activities and his blog, which contains severe criticism of the Rwandan government, including unfounded theories about the genocide.

October 15

Robert Mugabe, editor of online media Great Lakes Voice, publishes an article alleging multiple kidnapping attempts in Kigali.

December 28

Mugabe says he was called in for questioning by the police and accused of treason and disobeying the law.

December 31

Shyaka Kanuma, a journalist and owner of Rwanda Focus, a Rwandan newspaper, is arrested, accused of tax evasion and fraud. Ten days earlier, he had sent several messages on WhatsApp announcing his intention to become an activist and saying he had been questioned by the head of the intelligence services. It is unclear whether his social media activities and his arrest and charges are linked.


January 12, 18, and 19

Boniface Twarigimana, the vice-president of the FDU-Inkingi, is questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Rwandan police about his alleged role in publishing information on extrajudicial killings. Human Rights Watch later reports on these killings and others in July.

January 31

Philippe Mpayimana arrives in Kigali from France and announces his intention to run as an independent presidential candidate. A pro-government online news outlet accuses him of minimizing the genocide, which Mpayimana denies.

February 14

Violette Uwamahoro, a Rwandan-British woman married to a member of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile, visiting Rwanda to attend her father’s funeral, is reported missing in Kigali.

March 1

Rwanda’s withdrawal of its declaration allowing Rwandan individuals and non-governmental organizations access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights comes into force.

March 3

The police announce that Uwamahoro is in government detention.

March 3 – 6

Two family members and an acquaintance of Uwamahoro are forcibly disappeared. One, a policeman, later resurfaces in court and testifies against Uwamahoro. The two others are released several weeks later.

March 6

Ndabarasa resurfaces in Kigali, more than six months after his disappearance in August 2016. He tells media that he had fled the country, but decided voluntarily to come back. The story raises suspicions.

March 13

The trial against Nkusi starts at the High Court in Kigali, which later declares itself incompetent to deal with the case.

March 13

Uwamahoro and a co-defendant are charged with revealing state secrets and offenses against the established government or the president. She is accused of inciting her co-accused to join the RNC and an armed movement outside of Rwanda.

March 19

The DGPR confirms Frank Habineza as the party’s presidential candidate. The party had been able to register in August 2013, a week before the deadline for the September parliamentary elections that year.

March 23

The High Court chamber of Rusizi acquits and releases Gasengayire, after seven months in pretrial detention. During the trial, several witnesses say they were threatened.

March 28

Uwamahoro is released on bail because of insufficient evidence to warrant her ongoing detention.

April 12

Uwamahoro returns to the United Kingdom.

May 1

The Official Gazette is published, which contains National Electoral Commission regulations (from April 4) on social media use by candidates during the campaign. The regulations state that any candidate wanting to post campaign messages on social media networks must first submit the material to the commission for approval 48 hours in advance. The regulations draw criticism from government officials and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority.

May 3

Diana Rwigara announces her intention to run in the presidential election. Seventy-two hours later, nude photos of her are published on social media in an apparent attempt to humiliate and intimidate her. Rwigara said in international media that the photos were photoshopped.

June 1

The National Electoral Commission announces it will adjust its social media regulations based on public feedback.

June 14

Deadline for the applications from presidential candidates.

July 7

Rwigara, Gilbert Mwenedata, and Fred Sekikubo Barafinda are disqualified by the National Electoral Commission from participating in the elections.

July 14

Start of the electoral campaign.

August 3

Voting by the diaspora, in Rwandan embassies.

August 4

Presidential elections in Rwanda, with a 98.15 percent voter turnout. Kagame is re-elected with 98.79 percent of the vote. Mpayimana wins 0.73 percent and Habineza 0.48 percent of the vote.

August 18

Kagame is sworn in.

Fighting Street Children Phenomenon Must Respect Children Rights, Says Activist

analysisBy Lorraine Josiane Manishatse

Burundi police arrested over 150 people including children who come from other provinces in Bujumbura city center. The police plan to bring them back to their provinces of origin. Children’s rights activist says street children must be first sensitized to the importance of their return to their families.

Yesterday, Pierre Nkurikiye, Spokesman for the police told reporters the latter arrested 32 sex workers including a man in Bwiza area, 94 juvenile delinquents, 32 children in street situation and about 10 beggars in Bujumbura city center.

Nkurikiye says these apprehended people are part of those who disrupt security. He says, the police in collaboration with the administration plan to drive them back to their provinces of origin. “The police have already carried out a raid against these categories of people and returned them to their families. Unfortunately, they come back to Bujumbura shortly after,” said Nkurikiye. The spokesman for the police called on all the security partners, especially the administration to intervene. “We urge local authorities to redouble their efforts to ensure that those people cannot return to the capital after they have arrived in their provinces.

“Police have not succeeded because they have made a hasty decision”

The chairman of National Federation of Associations Engaged in Children’s Welfare (FENADEB), Jacques Nshimirimana, says children’s rights activists have never opposed the government’s plan to put an end to the growing street children phenomenon in Burundi. He said, they rather asked the government to analyze together the ways to carry out this plan without violating children’s rights. “Street children are victims of their parents’ fault, their own fault and others are victims of the 1993 civil war. These children must have the same rights as other internally displaced persons, “said FENADEB representative.

In Burundi, there are many IDP sites and none can force displaced persons to return to their provinces of origin because they are protected by the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs. “Among street people include former war children who are victims of the failure of social integration. In this case, the children are not at fault, “said Nshimirimana.

In February 2017, the Minister of Human Rights organized a two-day meeting with members of organizations working in the children’s field to jointly explore ways and means to end this phenomenon of delinquency and children in street situation.

Nshimirimana said the participants recommended that the fight against the street children phenomenon and delinquency must respect children’s rights. “We must educate these children so that they know that the street is not their place and sensitize their family members who will welcome them,” said Nshimirimana.

In December 2016, the police staged a raid throughout the country to implement the state policy to combat delinquency and phenomenon of children in street situation. The police raids are the result of a measure taken by the President of the Republic in September 2016, which gives various local administration officials a period of six months to ban street begging throughout the country.

Nshimirimana says he is concerned about the situation. For him, if these street children have left their families after committing serious crimes and are forced to return home, the police will have exposed them to danger.

“We found two bodies of children after the police had forced those children to return to their families,” Nshimirimana said. That is the reason why the Ministry of Human Rights subsequently decided to suspend these police raids against street children and delinquents throughout the country to better prepare awareness-raising campaigns.

Awareness raising activities are scheduled to begin before the end of August 2017, according to Nshimirimana. He said children’s rights activists and the Minister of Human Rights had convinced the government to build transit shelters for street children, beggars and delinquents until their families are ready to welcome them. For the president of FENADEB, the police have made a hasty decision by forcibly returning these children to their villages the reason why they haven’t succeeded.

Kenyans Demand Justice for Murdered Election Official

By Sarah Steffen

Rights activists marched through the streets of Nairobi to protest against the murder of election commission official Christopher Msando just days ahead of the polls.

Dozens of Kenyans came together on Tuesday to protest the murder of Christopher Msando, a top election official who was tasked with overseeing the country’s crucial electronic voting system. He was found dead with signs of torture in a forest on the outskirts of Nairobi over the weekend.

“We want to ensure that all Kenyans will be able to feel they are secure. Come election day, Kenyans have to be confident when they are going out there to cast their ballot,” said one protester in Nairobi.

“As a democratic nation we want to ensure that everyone exercises their civic duty to go out there and vote,” she added.

“The foul murder of Chris Msando is politically instigated,” said another protester marching along the streets of Nairobi.

While reading a joint statement on behalf of the organizers, George Kegora, executive director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) pointed out many Kenyans believe “elements within or close to the state” were responsible for Msando’s murder.

Kegora called on security officers to expedite investigations to arrest the people responsible for his murder.

“We are mourning with the family, we are mourning with the IEBC [election commission] family,” said Msando’s boss, Wafula Chebukati, at the rally.

Attack on Kenyatta’s running mate

Msando’s murder came shortly after the home of deputy president and running mate of President Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, was attacked on Saturday.

“The killing of Christopher Msando is catastrophic for his family and for the country’s preparations for election day on August 8,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Authorities should do everything possible to investigate and ensure that those responsible for his murder are held to account.”

His body was reportedly found alongside the body of an unidentified woman with a gunshot wound to the head.

Raila Odinga’s opposition alliance condemned the killing of Msando in a statement.

“That no effort was made to camouflage this killing as an accident shows the determination of the killers to send a chilling message that they will stop at nothing to ensure the outcome they desire,” the statement read.

Kenya’s violent past

A decade ago, disputed elections led to the nation’s worst electoral violence that saw more than 1,000 people killed. Many fear the elections on August 8 could be tampered with as well – and cause another devastating outburst of violence.

Kenyatta’s rival Odinga claims the elections in 2007 and 2013 were stolen from him – the opposition claims Kenyatta wants to rig this year’s elections which Kenyatta denies. In turn, the president is accusing Odinga of trying to divide the nation and provoke violence.

Fear of voter fraud

“People say the dead come back to vote, and then return to their graves,” said George Morara, chairman of the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

According to accounting company KPMG Kenya, it’s estimated there are about one million dead voters on the electoral register – in 2013, Kenyatta won by a margin of 800,000 votes.

Another way to sway the vote is to pay for voters’ identity cards during elections, which means these voters won’t be able to cast their votes, Morara added.

Then there’s the option to have people vote in constituencies they don’t actually live in to boost numbers there.

Kenya did introduce an electronic system meant to curb voter fraud in 2013 that included biometric voter registration. However, the technology could be hacked – or heads of polling stations could just find an excuse to abandon the electronic system altogether which reportedly happened in some cases in 2013.

Msando, who had reassured voters this year’s elections would not be tampered with, was due to lead a test run of the voting system on Monday.

Andrew Wasike contributed to this report.

‘No International Crimes Committed in Burundi’, NHR Commission Says

By Diane Uwimana

No international crimes were committed in Burundi between 2015 and 2017, according to an announcement on Friday by the chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights, CNDIH. The announcement comes just weeks after the allegedly independent commission announced that it had recorded 340 unlawful killings, over 100 disappearances, 68 torture cases and 788 arbitrary arrests between January 2016 and June 2017.

“The allegations that international crimes were committed between 2015 and 2017 are not true”, said Jean Baptiste Baribonekeza, chairman of the National Commission for the Human Rights (CNDIH).

The ICC prosecutor opened a preliminary inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Burundi in April 2015. Burundi withdrew from the ICC in October 2016, but its withdrawal has no impact on ongoing investigations. The government has also suspended its collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in response to a UN report that accused the government of grave human rights violations.

Baribonekeza claimed that the national judicial system is sufficiently equipped to deal with the current situation in Burundi and that out legal intervention, for example from the ICC, is not necessary. “The Burundi judicial system has undergone major reforms such as the revolutionary criminal code. We encourage it to assume its responsibilities”, he said.

Lambert Nigarura, chairman of the Burundian Coalition for the ICC and one of the lawyers in the collective Justice for Burundi, which defends victims of the human rights violations committed since 2015, condemned the announcement by the Human Rights Commission. “The Burundi judicial system has never summoned to court anyone involved in committing atrocities in Burundi”, says Nigarura. He says that the ICC prosecutor should promptly start a full investigation and issue arrest warrants for those who are responsible for the crimes. But he says that the CNDIH chairman seems to prefer impunity. Justice for Burundi has filed around 800 complaints to the chief prosecutor of the ICC since the crisis began.

Human rights activists say more than 2,000 people have been killed since April 2015, more than 8,000 imprisoned and thousands more have been forced into exile fearing for their security. UNHCR recently reported that since April 2015, some 410,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been forced to flee their homes.


Sudan Edge Burundi, Set Up Ethiopia Date

Striker Saifeldin Maki’s second half strike was enough to give Sudan a narrow win over Burundi in their Second Round… Read more »

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