HRW: Burundi opposition targeted with violence ahead of election

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the ruling party and authorities in Tanzania are using fear and repression against opposition groups and the few remaining independent organisations in the country ahead of presidential elections in May.

The rights group says it conducted phone interviews with dozens of people, including victims, witnesses, members of civil society groups, police, and ruling party sources, who described political oppression and rights abuses across multiple parts of the country. HRW also reports that it has documented killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and threats and harassment against real or perceived political opponents in recent months.

Violence and repression ahead of May vote

Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Lewis Mudge, says that the current situation in Burundi suggests further abuses will be reported as the country’s election approaches.

“Violence and repression have been the hallmark of politics in Burundi since 2015, and as elections approach and the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, tensions are rising,” Mudge is quoted as saying on the HRW website. “There is little doubt that these elections will be accompanied by more abuses, as Burundian officials and members of the Imbonerakure are using violence with near-total impunity to allow the ruling party to entrench its hold on power.”

According to HRW, local authorities, security forces, and members of the ruling party’s youth league continue to enjoy impunity.

Burundi is due to hold elections on 20 May, following confirmation on 7 April that the poll will go ahead, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Burundi confirmed its first case of the virus on 31 March but President Pierre Nkurunziza’s spokesperson insists that the Burundian people “are blessed by God”.

Featured image: By SuSanA Secretariat – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/6915215389/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36507423

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.