Burundi’s Ruling Party Picks Presidential Candidate

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019.  AFP

 

Burundi’s ruling party said Sunday that party leader General Evariste Ndayishimiye would stand as its candidate in a presidential election in May.

Ndayishimiye is an ally of current President Pierre Nkurunziza who will not seek a new mandate after his controversial election to a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

“Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye chosen to represent the CNDD-FDD at the 2020 presidential election,” the party tweeted during an extraordinary congress at which Nkurunziza was present.

Nkurunziza’s tenure has been marked by allegations of grave rights abuses and a crackdown on political freedoms.

Constitutional changes would have allowed him to stay in office until 2034, but he said in 2018 that he would not stand for re-election again.

Ahead of Sunday’s congress, Nkurunziza had announced “the beginning of a new page in the history of Burundi and the CNDD-FDD party”.

The violent aftermath of the last presidential election in 2015 made Burundi a focus of an investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged murders, rapes, tortures, and disappearances.

Civil unrest left 1,200 people dead and drove 400,000 from their homes.

Ndayishimiye, 52, is already a key member of Burundi’s ruling elite.

He has served as interior and security minister and chief of the president’s military and civilian cabinet.

Like the current president, Ndayishimiye emerged from rebellion movement against the ruling Tutsi community by ethnic Hutus who gained power after the country’s civil war, and was a key signatory of the 2003 ceasefire that ended the conflict.

“He’s an approachable, easygoing man, who likes to joke and laugh with his friends,” a friend who declined to be identified said of Ndayishimiye.

“But unlike Nkurunziza who is a composed, cold-blooded animal, Evariste Ndayishimiye is rather quick to anger and can lose his temper, with a risk of escalation,” the friend said.

A diplomatic source told AFP that Ndayishimiye had a reputation for “openness and honesty, unlike the other generals” having emerge from the civil war.

“He’s the best choice, but he will have a hard time prompting change and openness towards the opposition in a party that’s dominated by an extremist and sectarian current,” the diplomat said.

According to a newly-adopted law, Nkurunziza meanwhile is to stay in a newly-built luxury villa after he steps down, receive a one-off payment of close to $550,000 and a salary for the rest of his life.

It is unclear whether he will stay out of politics, but experts say he is likely to remain influential.

str-fal/jh/har

Burundi Approves Life Pension For Ex-Presidents Amid Poverty

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019. AFP

 

Burundi lawmakers on Tuesday adopted legislation offering a golden parachute to outgoing presidents, including a luxury villa and a one-off sum equivalent to more than half a million dollars.

The move comes four months ahead of May 20 elections for which President Pierre Nkurunziza has said he will not run.

In 2015, his campaign for a third term plunged the country into violence and led to an enduring political crisis.

The new law states that at the end of the mandate, the president will receive “a luxury villa built with public funds in the location of his choice within five years, as well as a one-off allocation of one billion Burundian francs” ($530,000, 480,000 euros).

This amount is a fortune in Burundi where more than 65 per cent live in poverty and where 50 per cent of the country is food-insecure, according to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

The legislation, adopted with 98 votes for and two against, differentiates between former heads of state elected via universal suffrage — of which Nkurunziza is the only candidate — and those who came to power via peace deal or military coup.

“A president who came to power via the simple consensus of a group of politicians does not have the same regard as one who was democratically elected,” Justice Minister Aimee-Laurentine Kanyana told the national assembly.

The retired president will also get the same benefits as a serving vice-president for seven years after he steps down, and will for the rest of his life get an allowance equal to that of a lawmaker.

The cost and size of the villa that will be provided are not specified.

“The benefits that will be given to a president at the end of his mandate are exorbitant if one takes into account the crisis in the country, but it is a positive measure as it seems to indicate very clearly that Nkurunziza will in fact not run for the presidency,” a diplomat in Burundi told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Nkurunziza surprised observers when he announced he would not seek another term in office, despite a new constitution in 2018, adopted by referendum, allowing him to do so.

AFP

Burundi Prosecutors Seek 15-Year Jail Term For Four Detained Journalists

Four journalists of the Burundi’s independent media Iwacu Press Group:(L to R) Christine Kamikazi, Agnes Ndirubusa, Egide Harerimana and Terence Mpozenzi leave at the High Court in Bubanza, western Burundi, on December 30, 2019 after attending a trial for complicity in endangering the internal security of the state. 
Tchandrou Nitanga / AFP

 

Burundi prosecutors Monday sought 15-year jail terms for four reporters and their driver who were detained covering an incursion of rebels from DR Congo and charged with endangering state security.

The journalists were working for Iwacu, one of Burundi’s few independent media outlets when they were arrested on October 22.

A witness in the northwestern province of Bubanza, where they were arrested, told AFP on condition of anonymity the long jail terms were sought after two hours of deliberations.

The source said the prosecution based the hefty sentencing demand largely on a WhatsApp exchange of messages between one of the reporters and a colleague based abroad in which the former wrote: “We are heading for Bubanza … to help the rebels.”

READ ALSO: Eighteen Killed In New Militia Attack In Eastern DR Congo

A further demand was for the detained to be denied their civic rights for 20 years.

Judgement was stayed for one month.

“We had the time to assure our clients’ defence. We hope they will be acquitted purely and simply,” defence counsel Clement Retirakiza, told reporters.

Police say at least 14 rebels from the Burundian RED-Tabara group, based across the border in eastern DR Congo, were killed in an attack the day the journalists were arrested.

The rebels say they killed a dozen security personnel.

The Reporters Without Borders NGO, which places Burundi a lowly 159th on its global list of press freedom, says those detained were simply doing their job while Human Rights Watch has called for their release.

Observers see the case against the four as a signal of toughness by the Burundi government just five months ahead of elections.

The country is currently mired in violent unrest sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza announcing in April 2015 he was controversially standing for a third term. He won re-election in July.

AFP

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