afrol News, 23 November - With opposition parties partly banned, journalists imprisoned and reports of torture, President Pierre Nkurunziza is rooting out critical voices in Burundi. New reports indicate a dictatorship is being implemented.
The latest critical report on a deterioration of democratic standards in Burundi was published by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) today. The 69-page report, "Closing Doors?: The Narrowing of Democratic Space in Burundi," documents abuses including torture, arbitrary arrests, banning of opposition activities and harassment of civil society groups.
The local Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH) earlier had complained about increased political and police brutality towards the Burundian opposition and press. APRODH leader Pierre Claver Mbonimpa himself is threatened by the police.
Earlier this month, Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) accused police and government of unlawful arrests of critical journalists in Burundi and harassment of independent media.
Today's HRW report sums up these negative trends and presents new facts on political repression in the East African country. According to HRW, the situation strongly deteriorated before this year's controversial election, and has not improved since that.
The May local elections, which according to official results ended with a landslide victory to the ruling CNDD-FDD, sparked opposition protests and claims of "massive fraud". The opposition joined forces and boycotted the June presidential and July parliamentary elections.
President Nkurunziza answered by imposing a blanket ban on all opposition party meetings and activities. Several opposition members and journalists were arrested. Some opposition members again take to their arms.
In August, the ruling party "coups" the main opposition party FNL, as an "extraordinary FNL congress" is organised with CNDD-FDD support. The "congress" votes out the FNL leadership and votes in replacements sympathetic to the ruling CNDD-FDD. Burundi's Interior Minister recognises the new leadership.
Meanwhile, human rights groups such as APRODH document extrajudicial killings of opposition members by the police and renewed use of torture against detained critical voices. During the last few months, several members of the press and the opposition have fled the country.
According to HRW, there are however some positive developments in Burundi, especially as parts of the judiciary are demonstrating their independence. Police officers torturing alleged FNL members were recently convicted and judicial authorities have promised to investigate allegations of torture and extrajudicial executions.
Burundi's international partners seem disappointed by these developments, following massive investments in negotiating a peace, establishing transitional authorities and trying to organise free and fair elections. According to HRW, many of the countries sponsoring the Burundian peace were also "frustrated by the opposition's decision to boycott elections in which the international community had invested heavily."
This frustration, according to the HRW report, left many international partners disengage from Burundi. As a consequence, many of these countries had "not actively urged the government to respect the rights of opposition parties."
Some pressure is however coming from the region, where the East African Community (EAC) is gaining foothold and establishing a common market that includes Burundi. EAC neighbours have encouraged Burundi to carry through on its promises to build stronger institutional mechanisms to protect human rights.
"If Burundi wants the world to see it as a democracy, its leaders need to avoid the temptation to govern as a de facto one-party state, and instead guarantee space for the political opposition and other dissident voices," HRW's Rona Peligal commented. "International donors and Burundi's neighbours should make it clear to Burundi's ruling party that it must work with its critics, rather than silence them," she added.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.