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Posts tagged ‘Rurubu Land of Burundi’

Burundi lawmakers vote to withdraw from ICC; would be 1st

October 12, 2016

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Lawmakers in Burundi overwhelmingly voted Wednesday in support of a plan to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, something no country has ever done. The decision escalates a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in the East African country, which has seen more than a year of deadly violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza made a controversial decision to pursue a third term.

No state has withdrawn from the ICC, according to the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. The court prosecutes cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ninety-four out of 110 Burundi lawmakers voted in favor of the withdrawal plan, months after the ICC announced it would investigate the country’s ongoing violence.

Some African countries have threatened a withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC, accusing the court of disproportionately targeting the continent. Only Africans have been charged in the six cases that are ongoing or about to begin, though preliminary ICC investigations have been opened elsewhere in the world.

Of the 124 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, 34 are African, the largest continental bloc. The United States is not a party to the treaty. Burundi’s decision is not immediate. Observers say a county wishing to withdraw from the ICC must write to the U.N. secretary-general stating its intention, and the withdrawal takes effect a year after the day the secretary-general receives the letter.

Vital Nshimirimana, a Burundian rights activist, urged the U.N. to challenge the government’s decision. “Already, we have information that intelligence agents are torturing, killing Burundians behind closed doors,” he said. “The world ought to rescue the people of Burundi.”

Burundi’s government has repeatedly said it is the victim of propaganda by exiles and opponents who want to diminish its credibility. Hundreds have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza last year pursued and won a third term that many call unconstitutional. Since the ruling party announced his candidacy in April 2015, Burundi has seen violent street protests, forced disappearances and assassinations. More than 260,000 have fled.

On Monday, Burundi’s government banned three U.N. human rights investigators from entering the country following the release of a report that cited massive rights violations allegedly perpetrated by security agencies.

The push among some African countries to withdraw from ICC began after the court indicted Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on charges of crimes against humanity for 2007 post-election violence in which more than 1,000 died. The ICC prosecutor said threats to witnesses, bribery and lack of cooperation by Kenya’s government led to the case’s collapse.

Some countries want a separate African court with jurisdiction over rights abuses.

UN chief: Burundi leader promises to release 2,000 prisoners

February 23, 2016

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi’s president promises to release 2,000 people detained during months of violent unrest, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday while visiting the violence-plagued country.

Ban spoke after meeting with President Pierre Nkurunziza on Tuesday, as well as meetings with officials from Burundi’s ruling party, government, opposition and civic groups in Bujumbura, the capital. Ban said Nkurunziza’s vow to release some prisoners is “an encouraging step” and urged the president to take more measures to promote peace. Ban said he was also heartened by the reopening of some media outlets and the cancellation of some arrest warrants. He arrived in Burundi on Monday on a mission to encourage dialogue between Nkurunziza and his opponents.

Ban and Nkurunziza spoke to reporters in a joint news conference Tuesday in Bujumbura. “Burundi’s political leaders must be willing to summon the courage and confidence that they make a credible political process possible and ensure that the people of this beautiful nation can once again live in peace and enjoy human rights,” said Ban.

In his statement, Nkurunziza said he is ready to talk to his opponents and urged Ban “to persuade Rwanda to stop its aggression against Burundi.” Rwanda has denied allegations it is training and arming rebels opposed to Nkurunziza.

Gun and grenade attacks continue to plague Bujumbura as Nkurunziza’s supporters and opponents target each other. More than 400 people have been killed in Burundi’s current unrest which started in April when it was announced Nkurunziza would seek a third term, which he won. A new rebel movement has vowed to oust Nkurunziza from power by force.

Burundi rejects African Union peacekeeping force

December 20, 2015

KIGALA, Rwanda (AP) — Burundi’s government on Saturday rejected the African Union’s plans to deploy a 5,000-strong peacekeeping force to stop escalating violence triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s extended tenure in office, a government spokesman said.

If the African Union sends troops without Burundi’s consent it will be viewed as an attack, said government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba. Burundi has enough forces to maintain peace, he said. Burundi has been in turmoil since April when Nkurunziza’s candidacy for a third term was announced. Violence escalated following Nkurunziza’s re-election in July.

Last week 87 people died when an unidentified group attacked three military installations. Burundi’s security forces responded by going on a rampage in parts of the capital, Bujumbura, regarded as centers of opposition. Police and military are accused of dragging more than 150 civilians from their homes and shooting them at point blank range, according to human rights groups. Burundi’s government insists its troops acted professionally.

In response to the violence, the African Union on Friday authorized sending a peacekeeping force to Burundi to stop the political violence. The African Prevention and Protection Mission will be deployed to Burundi for at least six months and its mission can be extended, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said. The force’s mandate will include protecting civilians under imminent threat and helping to create conditions for holding inter-Burundian dialogue. The African Union’s decision was unusual as it did not seek an invitation from Burundi’s government for the peacekeepers.

In another effort at mediation, Burundi’s fighting sides are to meet on December 28 in Uganda to try to resolve the crisis, Uganda’s defense minister said Saturday. Fourteen groups including Burundi’s ruling party, opposition parties and civil society organizations are to attend the talks aimed at ending the violent political unrest in which hundreds have been killed, said Crispus Kiyonga, who is also the facilitator of the peace talks mediated by the East African Community. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will moderate the talks, he said.

However the chances for these negotiations are not certain as the Nkurunziza government refused to participate in previous talks. The United Nations Security Council, in a statement Saturday, expressed “deep concern about the escalation of violence in Burundi,” condemning both the attack on the military installations and the retaliatory rampage in Bujumbura. The council urged all sides in Burundi to support Museveni’s mediation effort and to cooperate with the African Union’s plan to deploy a peacekeeping force.

At least 400 people have been killed since April 26, when it was announced Nkurunziza would run for a third term, according to human rights groups. Nearly 3,500 people have been arrested in the political crisis and 220,000 people have fled the country.

Nkurunziza’s third term was opposed by many Burundians and the international community, who say it violates the country’s constitution two-term limit. Nkurunziza argues that his first term in office does not count because he was elected by parliament and not by the people.

AP writers Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya and Risdel Kasasira in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.

Burundi: 15 killed in coordinated attacks on military camps

December 12, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — In coordinated attacks, gunmen stormed three military installations in Burundi before dawn Friday. At least 15 people were killed as gunfire and explosions rocked the African capital of Bujumbura, marking a steep escalation of a simmering conflict.

Around 4 a.m., the unidentified attackers wearing civilian clothing hit two military installations in the capital and one in the countryside. Terrified civilians in Bujumbura stayed in their homes as stray rounds hit some of them.

The sounds of battle continued into the afternoon, residents said. Military and police vehicles were the only ones on the deserted streets and roadblocks were set up. “A stray bullet hit the wall of my neighbor’s house. We do not know what’s going on in the streets. We are living in fear,” said Claire Biguda, a resident of the city’s Nyakabiga neighborhood, who was locked up in her house along with her husband and two children.

Taxi driver Emery Sahabo said, facing roadblocks and gunfire early Friday, he and other motorists abandoned their cars and ran home. Burundian officials have previously accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting an insurgency against President Pierre Nkurunziza. There was no immediate comment from Rwanda.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks and warned they could lead to further destabilization in Burundi. “Anyone responsible for ordering or committing human rights violations will be held individually accountable,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. The U.N. chief urged Burundi’s government to create conditions for an inclusive dialogue “that can address the deep political challenges facing the country.”

The U.N. Security Council also strongly condemned the latest attacks, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the council should look at “how the international community can protect civilians from mass violence, including for the possible deployment of a regionally led peace support operation.”

Friday’s fighting is apparently part of violence linked to Nkurunziza’s third term, which many Burundians and foreign observers had opposed as unconstitutional and in violation of peace accords. The treaty ended a civil war in which 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.

At least 240 people have been killed since April and about 215,000 others have fled to neighboring countries, according to the U.N. Several hundred people have also been imprisoned for opposing Nkurunziza’s re-election this year.

Twelve attackers were killed on Friday and 20 others were arrested, including one who was wounded and is being treated at a military hospital, military spokesman Col. Gaspard Baratuza told state radio.

The attackers wanted to steal weapons and use them to free prisoners, he said. Baratuza said five soldiers were wounded in the attacks. However, military officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said three soldiers were killed.

Five attackers and two soldiers were killed in the assault at a camp in Ngagara neighborhood, a soldier said. Another soldier at the ISCAM military academy said one soldier died there. A third attack took place in Mujejuru, 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the capital, Baratuza said.

Nkurunziza, who took power in 2005, won re-election in July. The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Nkurunziza, who says he was entitled to another term because for his first term he was elected by parliament and not by popular mandate. The deputy president of the Constitutional Court fled to exile in Rwanda before the ruling and said the court had been coerced to rule in favor of the president.

Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, though the current violence appears more politically than ethnically motivated.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.

Burundi’s president urges unity after contentious polls

July 31, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi’s re-elected president is urging unity after winning contentious polls that the international community says were not credible.

In a televised speech Thursday night, Pierre Nkurunziza said he would be a president for all, including those who did not vote for him. He said that during his presidency “everyone will enjoy the same rights and opportunities without favoritism.”

Nkurunziza won 69 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Agathon Rwasa, got 19 percent in the July 21 elections. The elections took place amid violence stemming from regular street protests against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, which many saw as unconstitutional.

The U.N. had urged Burundi’s government to delay the elections until the situation was sufficiently calm to hold credible, free and fair elections.

Burundi: President Nkurunziza wins controversial third term

July 24, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has won a third term in office, an electoral official announced Friday, amid controversy over whether his new term is constitutional.

Nkurunziza won 69 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Agathon Rwasa, got 19 percent, said electoral chief Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye. There were neither celebrations nor protests in the streets of Bujumbura, the capital, after the results were announced.

Nkurunziza, 51, was expected to be re-elected because he did not face a strong challenge in Tuesday’s polls after some opposition groups boycotted the election. Rwasa, the leading opposition candidate, said his campaign had been hindered by officials.

The United States and Britain condemned the elections as not being credible because of violence, intimidation, media restrictions and questions over the legitimacy of a third term for Nkurunziza. Burundi has been rocked by violence since April after the ruling party announced Nkurunziza would run for another term. Streets protests have left at least 100 people dead. More than 170,000 refugees have fled the country fearing electoral violence, said the U.N. refugee agency

The protests led to an attempted military coup in mid-May which was quickly put down by pro-Nkurunziza forces. Many fear that Nkurunziza’s determination to stay in power can trigger widespread violence in the poor central African country of 10 million that has a history of civil strife.

Earlier this month the Burundi government said the army had put down a rebellion in the country’s north killing 31 insurgents and arresting 171 others. “Burundian authorities repressed demonstrations as if they were an insurrection, and now the country appears to be on the verge of conflict,” Amnesty International said in a report Thursday.

Nkurunziza’s efforts to stay in power show a wider problem in the region of leaders seeking to overstay their time in power by any means necessary, said Jeff Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Opponents say Nkurunziza must retire because the constitution limits the president to two terms. But the president’s supporters say he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers — and not popularly elected — for his first term in 2005.

Burundi election results to be announced Friday

July 22, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Results from Burundi’s presidential election will be announced Friday, with incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza expected to win a third term that his opponents allege is unconstitutional.

About 72 percent to 80 percent of the country’s 3.8 million voters cast ballots Tuesday, said electoral commission head Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye. Violence on Monday night, as well as an opposition boycott, hindered turnout in the capital. Three people, including two police officers, were killed by gunfire in opposition strongholds.

Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition figure, said his attempts to campaign had been frustrated by the government, and the U.S. and Britain said the election was not credible due to the intimidation of Nkurunziza’s opponents.

The Coalition of Independence of Hope, which supports Rwasa, will reject the outcome, said Charles Nditije, who is part of the coalition. More than 100 people have died in protests since April when the ruling party announced Nkurunziza would seek a third term. The demonstrations triggered an attempted coup in May that was quickly put down by forces loyal to Nkurunziza. Earlier this month, the government said it crushed a rebellion in northern Burundi, killing 31 insurgents and arresting 171 others.

Many fear that Nkurunziza’s efforts to stay in power to could bring renewed conflict in Burundi, which gained independence from Belgium in 1962. Since then, it has had four coups and a civil war that killed 250,000 people.

“The attitude of the government is pushing people to create a rebellion,” said Francis Nyamoya, secretary general of opposition party Movement For Solidarity and Democracy. “If it is necessary, force will be used to push out Nkurunziza,” he said, adding that members of his party are being killed.

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