Four Journalists Arrested In Burundi For Undermining National Security

AFP photo

 

Four journalists and their driver are still being held in Burundi after being arrested for undermining national security while covering a rebel attack from neighbouring DR Congo, the attorney general said.

The Burundian reporters were detained on Tuesday last week while reporting in Bubanza, in the country’s northwest, prompting calls from free press groups for their immediate release.

The journalists, from the Iwacu newspaper, one of the last independent publications in Burundi, were detained along with their driver while trying to speak to residents fleeing fighting between rebels and national forces.

“The attorney general of the Republic wants to reaffirm here that these people were not arrested because they are journalists but for the things they are accused of,” Sylvestre Nyandwi said in a statement released late Thursday.

He said they were “apprehended on a hill where clashes were taking place and facts at the disposition of the prosecutors indicate that they could have had this information beforehand,” he said.

He said the court in Bubanza had “decided on the preventive detention” of the five for “undermining national security”.

At least 14 Burundian rebels were killed in the attack, the first by the RED-Tabara group since 2017, according to Burundian police.

The rebels meanwhile claim killing about 10 defence personnel.

Burundi has been locked in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.

The next presidential election is scheduled to be held in 2020.

The international media rights group RSF recently warned that there was such a crackdown on the press in Burundi that “there is a risk of all forms of independent journalism disappearing” less than a year before the election.

Burundi is currently ranked 159th out of 180 countries on the RSF’s world press freedom index.

AFP

Albino Teenager Found Dismembered In Burundi

 

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.

Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.

Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fuelled such killings in border areas.

AFP

Albino Teen Found Dismembered In Burundi

 

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.

Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm, and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

READ ALSO: Indonesia Police Shoot Suspected Militant After Station Attack

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.

Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fuelled such killings in border areas.

Burundi Starts Vaccinating Health Workers Against Ebola

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that Burundi had begun vaccinating frontline workers against Ebola at its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where an outbreak of the virus has killed close to 1,900 people.

The campaign to vaccinate at-risk staff against the deadly hemorrhagic fever started Tuesday at Gatumba, the main crossing point from Burundi to its much-larger neighbour, WHO said.

Burundi has received doses of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, an unlicensed product that has been shown to be effective against the Zairian strain of the virus raging in DR Congo.

It would be administered to those at greatest risk such as health workers along the border, laboratory staff and burial teams, WHO said.

“The vaccination of health and frontline staff is a significant step forward in preparing for the response to this disease,” said Dr Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Burundi.

The vaccine, developed by US pharmaceutical group Merck, proved “highly effective” in a trial conducted in Guinea in 2015 during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, he added.

The vaccination campaign will be overseen by WHO and Burundi’s health ministry.

The Ebola outbreak in eastern DR Congo is the second-worst in history. A total of 1,892 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak began on August 1 2018.

No cases of Ebola have been recorded so far in Burundi, a tiny nation of 11 million.

But its border with DR Congo is 236 kilometres (147 miles) long and considered highly porous, and the whole region is on high alert.

In June, three people from one family died in Uganda from Ebola after returning from DR Congo via an unofficial crossing point.

Burundi also shares a border with Rwanda and Tanzania.

The Congo outbreak is the first where vaccines have been rolled out on a large-scale.

The rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine has already been administered to some 170,000 people, especially frontline workers, in DR Congo.

This week, US researchers announced that two prototype drugs being tested among Ebola patients in eastern DR Congo boost chances of surviving the disease.

AFP

1,800 Dead As Malaria ‘Epidemic’ Rages In Burundi – UN

Malaria has killed more than 1,800 people in Burundi this year, the UN’s humanitarian agency says, a death toll rivaling a deadly Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi in 2019 — a figure roughly equal to half its entire population.

Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the mosquito-born disease in Burundi between January 1 and July 21, OCHA said.

READ ALSO: 148 Arrested In Hong Kong During Monday’s Protests – Police

The tiny country of 11 million people in the African Great Lakes region has still not declared a national emergency, despite OCHA saying the outbreak crossed “epidemic proportions” in May.

“The national malaria outbreak response plan, which is currently being validated, has highlighted a lack of human, logistical and financial resources for effective response,” OCHA said in its latest weekly bulletin on humanitarian emergencies.

“All stakeholders, including the national authorities and partners are called upon to provide the requisite resources to mount a robust response to this event before it escalates.”

A lack of preventative measures like mosquito nets, climatic changes and increased movements of people from mountain areas with low immunity to malaria were driving the crisis, OCHA said.

‘Many crises’

An OCHA official told AFP that “the decision to declare an epidemic is the sovereignty of the Burundian state”.

The country declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when the country had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but was resisting doing the same now.

A senior government official, who declined to be named, said the government did not want to admit weakness with elections set for 2020.

“We are less than a year away from the presidential election. (President Pierre) Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognise what could be considered a failure of his health policy,” the official told AFP.

Burundi has been in crisis since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in elections boycotted by most of the opposition.

At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces.

Nkurunziza announced in 2018 that he would not stand again, confounding critics who accused him of working to extend his grip on power.

UN investigators said in July that “drastic” steps were needed to boost democratic freedoms in Burundi if the government wanted the elections to be considered credible.

Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the region, abuts DR Congo, where the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history has killed more than 1,800 people amid fears the infectious fever could spread beyond its borders.

But malaria is a much bigger killer on the continent.

The World Health Organization recorded nearly 220 million cases of the parasitic illness in 2017, with an estimated 435,000 deaths. More than 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths were in Africa.

AFP

Nine Killed In Burundi Mine Collapse

 

Nine miners were killed and another 20 injured when an unregulated coltan mine collapsed following torrential rains in northern Burundi, an official and witnesses said Sunday.

The disaster occurred on Friday near the town of Kabarore, the sources said.

Four of the injured are in serious condition, a local official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

They were transported to local hospitals, the official said.

READ ALSO: DR Congo Transfers Jailed Ex-Militants After Daring Prison Breaks

Residents, civil security officials and the Red Cross were involved in rescue operations until Saturday.

“Torrential rains had hit the region for several days,” a witness told AFP.

Kabarore, in Kayanza province, is some 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Bujumbura, the capital of the central African country.

Several mines operate in the region, extracting coltan — a key component in cell phones and other electronic equipment — as well as tin oxide and tungsten.

Such incidents occur regularly in Burundi but local authorities are discouraged from reporting them.

AFP

2019 AFCON: Nigeria To Play Burundi June 22 (Full Fixtures)

2019 AFCON: Nigeria To Play Burundi June 22 (Full Fixtures)
(File) Super Eagles prepare for their AFCON qualifying match against the Bafana Bafana of South Africa at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, the Delta State capital on November 13, 2018. Photo: Twitter – @NGSuperEagles

 

Updated fixtures for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after organisers announced details of knockout rounds (all kick-off times GMT):

READ ALSOTiger Woods Tees Off As Dramatic Masters Final Round Begins

Group A

Seeding: 1. Egypt, 2. Democratic Republic of Congo, 3. Uganda, 4. Zimbabwe

June 21

Egypt v Zimbabwe, Cairo Stadium, 2000

June 22

DR Congo v Uganda, Cairo Stadium, 1430

June 26

Uganda v Zimbabwe 1700, Egypt v DR Congo 2000, both Cairo Stadium

June 30

Egypt v Uganda, Cairo Stadium; Zimbabwe v DR Congo, June 30 Stadium, Cairo, both 1900

Group B

Seeding: 1. Nigeria, 2. Guinea, 3. Madagascar, 4. Burundi

June 22

Nigeria v Burundi, 1700; Guinea v Madagascar 2000, both Alexandria Stadium

June 26

Nigeria v Guinea, Alexandria Stadium, 1430

June 27

Madagascar v Burundi, Alexandria Stadium, 1430

June 30

Madagascar v Nigeria, Alexandria Stadium; Burundi v Guinea, Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, both 1600

Group C

Seeding: 1. Senegal, 2. Algeria, 3. Kenya, 4. Tanzania

June 23

Senegal v Tanzania 1700, Kenya v Algeria 2000, both June 30 Stadium

June 27

Algeria v Senegal, 1700; Kenya v Tanzania 2000, both June 30 Stadium

July 1

Kenya v Senegal, June 30 Stadium; Tanzania v Algeria, Al Salam Stadium, both 1900

Group D

Seeding: 1. Morocco, 2. Ivory Coast, 3. South Africa, 4. Namibia

June 23

Morocco v Namibia, Al Salam Stadium, 1430

June 24

South Africa v Ivory Coast, Al Salam Stadium, 1430

June 28

Morocco v Ivory Coast 1700, Namibia v South Africa 2000, both Al Salam Stadium

July 1

South Africa v Morocco, Al Salam Stadium; Namibia v Ivory Coast, June 30 Stadium, both 1600

Group E

Seeding: 1. Tunisia, 2. Mali, 3. Mauritania, 4. Angola

June 24

Tunisia v Angola 1700, Mauritania v Mali 2000, both Suez Stadium

June 28

Tunisia v Mali, Suez Stadium, 1430

June 29

Mauritania v Angola, Suez Stadium, 1430

July 2

Mauritania v Tunisia, Suez Stadium; Angola v Mali, Ismailia Stadium, both 1900

Group F

Seeding: 1. Cameroon (holders), 2. Ghana, 3. Benin, 4. Guinea-Bissau

June 25

Cameroon v Guinea-Bissau 1700, Ghana v Benin 2000, both Ismailia Stadium

June 29

Cameroon v Ghana 1700, Benin v Guinea-Bissau 2000, both Ismailia Stadium

July 2

Benin v Cameroon, Ismailia Stadium; Guinea-Bissau v Ghana, Suez Stadium, both 1600

Note: top two finishers in each group and best four third-place teams qualify for knockout phase

Second round

July 5

(41) Gp D winners v 3rd Gp B/E/F, Al Salam Stadium, 1600

(38) Gp A runners-up v Gp C runners-up, Cairo Stadium, 1900

July 6

(42) Gp B runners-up v Gp F runners-up, Alexandria Stadium, 1600

(39) Gp A winners v 3rd Gp C/D/E, Cairo Stadium, 1900

July 7

(37) Gp B winners v 3rd Gp A/C/D, Alexandria Stadium, 1600

(40) Gp C winners v 3rd Gp A/B/F, June 30 Stadium, 1900

July 8

(43) Gp E winners v Gp D runners-up, Suez Stadium, 1600

(44) Gp F winners v Gp E runners-up, Ismailia Stadium, 1900

Quarter-finals

July 10

(45) Winners match 38 v winners 41, June 30 Stadium, 1600

(48) Winners 42 v winners 39, Cairo Stadium, 1900

July 11

(47) Winners 43 v winners 40, Suez Stadium, 1600

(46) Winners 37 v winners 44, Al Salam Stadium, 1900

Semi-finals

July 14

Winners 45 v winners 46, June 30 Stadium, 1600

Winners 47 v winners 48, Cairo Stadium, 1900

Third place

July 17

Losing semi-finalists, Al Salam Stadium, 1900

Final

July 19

Winning semi-finalists, Cairo Stadium, 1900

AFP

Burundian Schoolgirls Jailed For Scratching President’s Photo

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

Three teenage schoolgirls in Burundi have been sent to prison to await trial for scribbling on a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza in textbooks, activists said Thursday.

The girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, face up to five years in prison for insulting the head of state if found guilty.

Judges said the three girls should be “prosecuted for contempt of the head of state”, and ordered them to a juvenile section of a prison in the north of Burundi at Ngozi to await trial, said FENADEB, a civil society umbrella group of 48 organisations.

The trio has been in custody since March 12, when they were arrested with three other schoolgirls and a 13-year old boy. The boy was released immediately because he was below the age of criminal responsibility, while the three girls were released without charge.

READ ALSO: 12 Killed In Egypt Chemical Plant Blast

The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school, but teachers pointed out that the books are shared among all the pupils as there are not enough for everyone to have their own.

A judicial source, who called the case “very sensitive” and said it was overseen directly by the Attorney General, reported that the girls arrived at the prison on Wednesday afternoon.

It was not clear when they might face trial, but the father of one of the girls said they were already “too scared to eat”, according to Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In 2016, several schoolchildren were handed prison sentences for similar scribbles on the president’s face, and hundreds of pupils expelled, sparking an international outcry.

Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely-contested third term in office.

The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation.

“With so many real crimes being committed in Burundi, it’s tragic that children are the ones being prosecuted for harmless scribbles,” HRW’s Mudge added.

“Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles.”

AFP

Burundi Accuses Opposition Lawmaker Of Plot To Kill President

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 1, 2015 Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

Burundi’s public security ministry has accused a prominent opposition MP of planning the assassination of President Pierre Nkurunziza and other top officials, in an address on state television.

The authorities announced the arrest of a “commando unit” over the alleged plot to murder the president, his two deputies and the parliament speaker, in the televised statement late Thursday.

The spokesman for the public security ministry, Pierre Nkurikiye, accused Pierre-Celestin Ndikumana, of the Amizero y’Abarundi (Burundians’ Hope) coalition, of being behind the plan.

Three alleged members of the commando unit were paraded on television during the address, including a man who was a domestic worker at Ndukimana’s home for a few months in 2015.

“The details (of the plot) are on this piece of paper written by the criminal you have just seen (the domestic worker) while he was in the car of honourable Pierre-Celestin Ndikumana, who dictated it to him,” said the spokesman.

Nkurikiye said the former domestic worker had confessed to being recruited by Ndikumana to carry out the assassinations, and also confessed to trying to kill a married couple of ruling party lawmakers at the beginning of October.

Parliamentary sources said that a procedure to lift Ndikumana’s immunity would be launched soon, while Nkurikiye said a probe would seek to find others involved in the alleged plot.

Ndikumana told AFP the accusations were a “crude setup aimed at intimidating me and keeping me quiet”.

Burundi has been locked in a crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza in April 2015 announced he would seek a controversial third term in office, sparking civil unrest that has left 1,200 dead and over 400,000 displaced.

Amizero y’Abarundi, led by former Hutu rebel Agathon Rwasa, is considered the main rival to Nkurunziza’s ruling CnDD-FDD, and local NGOs, as well as the United Nations, have condemned a crackdown on their supporters.

AFP

Burundi Threatens To Quit UN Human Rights Council

A general view of the UN Council of Human Rights at the UN Offices in Geneva. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Burundi on Friday threatened to quit the UN Human Rights Council over perceived “politicisation” following a report pointing to crimes against humanity in the country.

A presidential source made the warning as a government delegation arrived in Geneva, to make a presentation on Monday, following the publication last month of a UN report into human rights in the landlocked east African nation.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” the Burundi government was committing crimes against humanity, warning these and other serious rights violations were continuing unabated, in part due to hate speech by President Pierre Nkurunziza.

UN investigators found many violations were committed by the intelligence services, police and army as well as the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.

Burundi has rejected the findings.

Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said Friday the delegation led by minister for human rights Martin Nivyabandi would meet newly-appointed UN rights head and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

“The delegation… intends to meet with the new high commissioner and we are expecting things to progress more positively than previously because first of all she is an experienced former head of state who understands well state concerns and a lady has more humanity in her than a man,” Nyamitwe said.

He added that Burundi “expects much” from the talks.

“Otherwise, if things do not change and if the human rights council continues to be politicised excessively then Burundi reserves the right to quit the council.”

Last year the UN body elected to send, with the support of its African working group and with Burundi’s support, three experts to the country to “work in cooperation” with the government on bringing to justice human rights abusers.

But this week the UNHCR said the trio were unable to visit the east African nation as the authorities had cancelled their visas in April just three weeks before they were due to visit. Nyamitwe has insisted they were “mercenaries” following a “Western Agenda.”

Burundi plunged into crisis in 2015 after Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term in office that his opponents said was unconstitutional.

Turmoil since then has killed at least 1,200 people, and has forced 400,000 to flee their homes, triggering an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which Burundi last year became the first nation to leave.

AFP

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 1, 2015, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

The UN Security Council on Wednesday criticised slow progress in talks between Burundi’s government and the opposition despite President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision not to seek re-election in 2020.

In a unanimous statement, the council welcomed Nkurunziza’s announcement but added that “additional progress will be necessary for credible elections” to be held in two years.

The East African (EAC) bloc of countries is seeking to broker a political deal between the government and the opposition to end the crisis that erupted in 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term.

Nkurunziza’s decision to run for re-election plunged Burundi into violence that left 1,200 people dead and drove 400,000 from to their homes.  The International Criminal Court last year opened an investigation for grave crimes committed in Burundi.

Council members expressed “deep concern over the slow progress” in the dialogue and stressed that “it is crucial that all parties, most especially the government of Burundi, commit to the EAC-led process and reach an agreement well ahead of the 2020 elections.”

The government has refused to hold talks with some opposition groups that it brands terrorists.

The elections must be “free, fair, transparent, peacefully and fully inclusive, with the participation of all political parties,” and ensure the full participation of women, said the council statement.

Nkurunziza has been accused of sliding towards authoritarianism since he came to power in 2005 at the end of Burundi’s brutal civil war.

AFP

26 Die In Burundi Village Attack

 

An armed group has killed 26 people in northwest Burundi, the security minister said Saturday, days ahead of a constitutional referendum that could see  President Pierre Nkurunziza rule until 2034.

Alain Guillaume Bunyoni said that the attackers were “terrorists” from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The terrorists coming from and returning to Congo shot and burned: 26 dead and seven wounded,” the minister said in a statement.

The attack came as tensions rise days ahead of a constitutional referendum on May 17 which could allow Nkurunziza to stay in power for 16 more years.

The government has in recent weeks deployed soldiers to border areas after accusing exiled opposition groups of seeking to disrupt the vote.

Witnesses told AFP of an hours-long orgy of violence that began around 10:00pm (2000 GMT) on Friday in a village in Cibitoke province bordering Congo and Rwanda.

They said a group, armed with guns and knives, killed dozens of people and also set fire to buildings.

“These criminals went house to house and committed real carnage,” said a local official speaking on condition of anonymity. He said he was “horrified” by the violence.

“Some of the victims were stabbed, others were shot, there is even a whole family that was burned alive in their home.”

The perpetrators and their motive are not yet known but local residents said the attackers crossed into DR Congo after carrying out the raid.

“For now, these criminals have not been identified, but an investigation is underway to determine their identity,” said a police officer, who did not want to be named.

Controversial votes 

Nkurunziza, 54, has ruled the tiny central African nation since 2005. His run for a controversial third term in 2015 triggered a deep political crisis that has seen 1,200 people killed and 400,000 flee their homes.

The violence and abuses are being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) while a vicious press crackdown has seen the majority of independent journalists leave the country.

In a report last month Human Rights Watch accused Burundi‘s government of killing, beating and intimidating suspected opponents of the referendum in a bid to ensure Nkurunziza’s victory.

The vote is taking place in tightly-controlled conditions, and parties which advise electors to abstain — rather than cast a Yes or No ballot — risk up to three years’ jail.

Earlier this month Burundi‘s press regulator suspended broadcasts by the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) and warned other radio stations, including Radio France International (RFI), against spreading “tendentious and misleading” information.

Burundi‘s exiled opposition, gathered in an alliance called CNARED, has called for a boycott of the referendum, which it describes as the “death knell” to a 2000 agreement that helped end a bloody civil war.

No president can govern Burundi for more than 10 years under the 2000 Arusha peace accords, which helped to end a 1993-2006 conflict that killed more than 300,000 people.

But if the amendment is approved, Nkurunziza would be entitled to stand for two more seven-year terms from 2020.

AFP