Annual Report: Burundi 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Burundi 2010

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Head of state Pierre Nkurunziza
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 8.3 million
Life expectancy 50.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 177/155 per 1,000
Adult literacy 59.3 per cent

The government suppressed the rights to freedom of expression and association by harassing or limiting the activities of some human rights defenders, journalists and opposition political parties. High levels of rape and other sexual violence against women and girls persisted. A new penal code abolished the death penalty and introduced other positive reforms. However, it also criminalized same sex sexual relationships. Disputes continued over land ownership in the context of the mass repatriation of refugees from Tanzania.

Background

The political situation remained tense in the build-up to elections due in 2010. The government, led by the National Council for the Defence of Democracy- Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), restricted the activities of opposition parties and civil society groups.

A peace agreement was reached in April between the government and the National Liberation Forces (FNL). However, political violence increased, with opposition parties alleging that the CNDD-FDD had created a new armed youth group, provided weapons to former fighters and carried out unlawful killings. Other political parties, including the FNL, were also reported to have used violence.

The CNDD-FDD and FNL were reportedly responsible for unlawful killings and assaults of political opponents or critical members of their own parties. The CNDD-FDD mobilized their youth wing, the Imbonerakure, who were said to be often armed with sticks or clubs, and seen with state officials making arrests and carrying out community patrols. The FNL, previously known as the Palipehutu-FNL, removed the ethnic reference from the party's official title in January, enabling its registration as a political party on 21 April. Senior members of the party were nominated to government positions on 5 June. Former fighters were entered into the demobilization programme – 5,000 of them were integrated into government and army positions under the supervision of the AU. There were complaints by former FNL fighters about demobilization pay, heightening security fears.

On 11 September, the National Assembly agreed on a long-disputed draft electoral law. The CNDDFDD and opposition parties also agreed that commune-level elections would be held before the presidential elections.

Insecurity, often linked to criminality, remained a problem and light arms were prevalent. People had little confidence in the justice system and resorted to mob justice on numerous occasions. Violent disputes over land, sometimes involving fatalities, worsened the security situation, especially in the south.

Freedom of association

Opposition parties, including the Union for Peace and Development (UPD-Zigamibanga), the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD) and the FNL were regularly banned from holding meetings. On 18 March, the Interior Minister warned political parties against "illegal" meetings ahead of the 2010 elections. Numerous members of political opposition parties were arbitrarily detained, mostly for short periods.

  • In May, the authorities banned at extremely short notice a march organized by civil society groups to push for justice following the killing of human rights defender Ernest Manirumva (see below). The Mayor of Bujumbura cited security concerns as the reason for the ban, a reason rejected by the organizers.

Freedom of expression

Relations between the government and civil society, in particular journalists and human rights defenders, were tense.