Polls leave Burundi on the verge of genocide

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

from OMEGA SSUUNA in Bujumbura, Burundi
BUJUMBURA, (CAJ News) THE countdown to elections scheduled for Burundi next month is increasing the risk of atrocity crimes in the East African country.

General elections are set for May 20 despite concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

In addition to risks surrounding the pandemic, the United Nations Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Burundi warned that the upcoming polls could result in renewed crimes against humanity.

Risk factors including extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence and arbitrary detention of perceived political opponents have increased significantly since preparations began in September last year.

Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party of President Pierre Nkurunziza (55), is blamed for the violations.

Political intolerance, hate speech and repression of civil society and independent media has also created an environment rife to the perpetration of atrocity crimes.

The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has urged the international community to use the remaining weeks before the election to exert diplomatic pressure on Burundi to uphold human rights.

It is also proposing that elections be postponed until the atmosphere is conducive.

Burundi has been in crisis since 2015 when Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, announced he would run for a third term.

This violated the constitution and the 2000 Arusha Peace Agreement, which ended a civil war that claimed over 350 000 lives between 1993-2005.

Nkurunziza eventually won the 2015 elections boycotted by his rivals.

Since then, the government has been accused of systematically persecuting opponents of the ruling party and has committed possible crimes against humanity.

– CAJ News

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