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Burundi

Yearbook 2019

Burundi. UN and human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International warned of violence ahead of the 2020 elections. In addition to presidential elections, Burundi will organize parliamentary and local elections. It is unclear whether President Pierre Nkurunziza is running for office. He has said on several occasions that it is not relevant. According to a controversial referendum on constitutional amendments in 2018, he could in theory sit until 2034.

2019 Burundi

A special UN group investigating suspected crimes in Burundi since 2015 reported in September that the ruling party CNDD-FDD and its youth union Imbonerakure continue to harass the opposition. Members of the youth union are accused of murder, assault and rape. But few are convicted of crimes, the group noted. On 27 September, the UN Human Rights Council decided to extend the group's mandate for one year.

According to CountryAAH, Burundi opposes UN involvement. In March, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) closed its office in the country on the orders of the Burundi government. UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet promised to continue investigating suspected crimes.

Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, registered a new party, CNL (National Freedom Congress), in February. Party members and alleged supporters were beaten and arrested according to testimony to Human Rights Watch. Many cases were attributed to Imbonerakure. The parties FNL (National Freedom Front) and UPRONA (Union for National Progress) were also subject to harassment, the UN reported.

The regional organization EAC's mediator, Tanzania's former president Benjamin Mkapa, resigned in February. He never made a breakthrough despite several mediation rounds.

In January, Parliament approved a plan to move the country's capital to Gitega, a process that is expected to take several years. Bujumbura remains the commercial capital. Some critics believe the move is an attempt to circumvent the opposition, which has a strong foothold in Bujumbura.

Burundian refugees were another source of concern. UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 342,000 refugees in neighboring countries, more than half in Tanzania. In August, Tanzania and Burundi agreed that up to 180,000 refugees would return. Tanzania President John Magufuli said in October it would be implemented by the end of the year - and did not rule out coercion. The UNHCR stated that the country was not safe and that only voluntary returns could be accepted.

Media was under continued pressure. The British BBC was banned from operating in the country and closed its office in July. The American radio company VOA was also not allowed to broadcast. Another setback for freedom of speech was the president's decision in July to appoint Imbonerakure's leader as head of the national broadcasting company RTNB. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) listed Burundi in 159th place among 180 countries on its press freedom index. In October, four journalists who worked for the private media company Iwacu and their driver were arrested during a mission in the northwest province of Bubanza. They were to investigate reports of fighting between security forces and armed militias that had penetrated from neighboring Congo (Kinshasa).

According to the UN relief agency OCHA, malaria claimed over 1,800 lives in the first half of 2019 while nearly half of Burundi's population had been affected.

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