Discord over state of rights in Burundi

Saturday September 18 2021

People at a past protest in Burundi. UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi recently said that the democratic space in the country has remained closed. PHOTO | AFP


Burundi’s political opposition and the National Independent Human Rights Commission are locked in a disagreement over the state of human rights following comments by a UN team that intolerance was still rife in the country.

Recently, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi led by Doudou Diène said that the democratic space in the country has remained closed. “No structural reform has been undertaken to durably improve the situation. Serious human rights violations have continued to be committed by state officials and members of the Imbonerakure,” said the report.

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, which was formed by Human Rights Council on September 30, 2016, to conduct a thorough investigation into human rights violations and abuses committed in the country since April 2015 said that rights violations continue on albeit on a smaller scale than during the elections.

“The democratic space remains closed and the authorities tightly control the media and civil society despite some isolated symbolic gestures of openness by the president,” said Mr Diène.

But National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) president Sixte-Vigny Nimuraba told The EastAfrican in Bujumbura that the human rights situation has improved significantly despite outcry by the opposition over their members being harassed and arbitrarily arrested by security forces.

“It is true that the opposition can be arrested. If they commit a crime, they will be held to account. And that goes for people from the ruling party, too,” said Mr Nimuraba.


Burundi’s main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa told The EastAfrican that his party members were arbitrarily arrested despite respecting the rule of law. “The police can’t be the enforcer of the law if they don’t know the law,” Mr Rwasa said.