Rights groups arise for various reasons dealing with the protection of human rights and dignity. They fight many battles on many fronts with odds that can hardly be defined as fair considering they go toe to toe with governments and most of the time with limited budgets.
People need rights groups to speak up for them and insist on their rights when they have no voice and in Burundi where violence has led to the death and relocation of thousands of people, rights groups are necessary.
Burundi’s government has, however, withdrawn permits from a prominent human rights organization and several other non-profit groups. The government gave as the reason for pulling the permits in a statement issued by the Interior Ministry where the government alleged that the rights groups were stirring up hatred and tarnishing the nation’s image.
It is not the first time these groups have been accused of taking sides against the government in a political crisis that has rumbled on since last year over incumbent President Nkurunziza’s third term win.
The Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH), run by prominent activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who survived an assassination attempt by unidentified gunmen last year and then left for Europe where he remains, was among those whose permits were withdrawn.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa along with some other activists had been loudly critical of President Nkurunziza’s third term bid; they accused him of violating the constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war in 2005. They have also accused the state and security forces of rights abuses.
Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye said in the statement which he signed;
“In spite of the multiple warnings the associations … have deviated from their objectives as written in the statute and keeps on tarnishing the country’s image and sowing hatred and divisions among the Burundian people.”
The order had been obtained by Reuters on Monday but had allegedly come to force on the date of its signing; October 19. Four other rights groups all previously accused of siding with the opponents of the government also had their permits seized.
A similar order also obtained by Reuters on Monday said that the activities of five organizations, including a journalists union, were suspended because the groups were allegedly “disturbing public order and state security”.