Burundi police forcing people to vote in referendum that could extend Nkurunziza rule


Police in Burundi are forcing people to enrol ahead of a national referendum on making changes to the constitution that would allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a fourth term in power, according to opposition groups in the country.

Opposition parties say the police and the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing are forcing people to enrol ahead of the referendum in May. While the police has publicly threatened to arrest anyone who campaigns or protests against the constitutional changes.

Enforced enrolment, intimidation

“What is happening is unacceptable,” said Tatien Sibomana, one of the remaining opposition leaders in Burundi who has decided not to go into exile. “Getting registered (to vote) is a civil right and a right that one can choose to exercise or not.”

According to witnesses interviews by AFP, authorities are stopping people at roadblocks and refusing to let them pass without showing their enrollment papers. While some residents have been told their health insurance won’t be validated until they sign up to vote.

Teacher, students arrested

Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye has also warned that anyone who might “try to impede this process… especially to the youth who are deceived by some politicians” that they will be arrested.

The police says four students and one teacher were arrested in the northern Ngozi district earlier this week for going to residents’ houses and telling them to vote “no” in the upcoming referendum. A total of 50 opposition activists have been arrested so far due to campaigning for people to vote no in May’s poll.

Featured image: By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org)/Eric Miller, mailto:emiller@iafrica.com emiller@iafrica.com) – Pierre Nkurunziza – World Economic Forum on Africa 2008, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685472

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.