Four priorities for Burundian peacebuilders in 2021
In this article, our local peacebuilding expert from Burundi* analyses the first six months of a new Presidency, and the challenges and opportunities they have brought for peace.
The first six months of President Ndayishimiye’s term have been marked by important social and political changes. These include the return of thousands of refugees who had sought asylum in neighbouring countries, the launch of a massive screening campaign against COVID-19, the arrest of policemen and Imbonerakure involved in fraud and banditry, the recent release of the four journalists from the Iwacu group after 14 months in jail as well as a timid renewal of bilateral talks with the Rwandan government.
*The author of this article is a peacebuilder from Burundi who wishes to remain anonymous due to the security situation in the country.
These positive steps have raised hopes for Burundians who have long been waiting for real signs of change, yet the same period saw serious human rights violations and attacks perpetrated by both government forces and rebels of the RED Tabara movement. Though it is currently difficult to assess how many civilians have been casualties of this violence, it is clear that dozens of people have been killed since Ndayishimiye took power. Most of the victims were arbitrarily arrested and summarily executed; their bodies were found in rivers and on public roads.
these positive steps have raised hopes for Burundians who have long been waiting for real signs of change
Following years of political crisis, hopes for increased political and civil liberties under the new presidency have faded. Activist Germain Rukuki, who has been in jail since 2017, has seen his 32-year sentence confirmed by the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal. Likewise, Fabien Banciryanino, a former opposition MP who was arrested and detained last October, has since been accused of rebellion and is considered a threat to internal and external state security.
Faced with this situation, the United Nations – whose local office has been told to close by the Gitega authorities – have just extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi for another year. This follows its fourth report, which indicated that the country’s human rights situation remains at risk of deteriorating. This follows its fourth report, which indicated that the country’s human rights situation remains at risk of deteriorating. Even after the 2020 elections, the report highlighted that there had been “little” in the way of “positive changes”.
To read the full blog post, click here.