Last year, precisely on April 25th, Burundi’s ruling political party, The National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) announced to the dismay of many opposing factions that the incumbent President, both at the time and currently, Pierre Nkurunziza, would run for a third term in the year’s Presidential election. The announcement immediately sparked protests and further down, widespread demonstrations.
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The demonstrations which took place in Bujumbura, the capital, and lasted for over three weeks merely underscored the ruling of the country’s highest court which approved the President’s right to run for a third term, despite the obvious contention that at least one court judge had fled the country with claims that he had been threatened by the government.
In what can only be perceived as an unprecedented show of zeal, observing from without, government then shut down the country’s internet and telephone networks, closed down all universities and promoted an environment where thousands have either been arrested, killed, injured or have just simply fled.
General Godefroid Niyombare (Former Army Chief of Staff and Head of Intelligence) made his move on the 13th of May, while President Nkurunziza was in Tanzania, and declared a coup. He announced the coup in concert with other senior staff officers in the Army and Police. The coup attempt however failed, ending officially on May 15th.
The presidential elections which held on July 21st with no participation from the opposition, was heralded by violence with a number of notable figures inclusive of the country’s Vice President and president of the National assembly fleeing the country in the weeks prior. The aftermath of the elections likewise recorded violence, with continued upheavals and attacks happening till this day. The figure for politically-motivated violence since April 2015 according to varying reports from human rights groups is on the upwards of 350 people.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday warned that worrying trends were emerging in Burundi, gang rapes, enforced disappearances and torture cases, and further called for an urgent investigation into events that took place in Bujumbura between the 11th and 12th of December. He spoke candidly, saying “This is an indication that a complete breakdown in law and order is just around the corner and, with armed opposition groups also becoming more active, and the potentially lethal ethnic dimension starting to rear its head, this will inevitably end in disaster if the current rapidly deteriorating trajectory continues.”
In replying to the UN’s report, the spokesman for the President, Gervais Abaycho said “These are reports which to us are unwarranted, baseless and which have not been substantiated. We call on everybody who would like to visit Burundi to come to see the situation first hand on the ground; see that these claims are false.” He admits though that Burundi has been a hotbed of violence but insists that the claims are exaggerations and that the rest of the world is carrying a propaganda against Burundi.