Burundi

  1. Burundi and Rwanda move closer to normalising relations

    Burundi and Rwanda's foreign ministers have unexpectedly met at the border, following years of diplomatic tensions and counter-accusations between the two nations.

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    It's the first high-level political meeting in five year between the two countries which speak similar languages and share much in their cultures.

    Albert Shingiro of Burundi and Vincent Biruta of Rwanda gave each other written messages from their own government, it was announced in a statement.

    Since 2015 Burundi has accused Rwanda of having a hand in an aborted coup and harbouring its organisers, while Rwanda accuses Burundi of supporting rebels who've led attacks on Rwanda.

    Political relations, trade and cross-border activities have almost frozen since then, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens.

    Both ministers discussed existing differences between the countries and insisted on the “common need to normalise relations”, their statement says.

    The two sides agreed to meet again on a later date.

    In August, military intelligence chiefs met at the same border, after some clashes of the two countries’ armies.

  2. Burundi's ex-leader given life sentence for successor's death

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Pierre Buyoya
    Image caption: Mr Buyoya is currently the African Union envoy to the Sahel

    Burundi's Supreme Court has handed a life sentence to former president Pierre Buyoya for having a hand in the assassination of his successor Melchior Ndadaye.

    Mr Buyoya, now 70, is currently an African Union envoy to the Sahel. He has not attended the trial, which he last year dismissed as "politically motivated".

    A copy of the judgment seen by the BBC also gave life sentences to 15 other people – many of them former senior army officials – and a 20-year sentence to former vice-president Bernard Busokoza.

    In 2018, Burundi's government issued an international arrest warrant against Mr Buyoya, who led the country twice (from 1987 to 1993, and again from 1996 to 2003), for the assassination of Mr Ndadaye in 1993.

    The anniversary of his death is commemorated each 21 October in Burundi. He was the country's first democratically elected president and is considered a national hero.

  3. Burundi MP charged with slandering late president

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Former Burundian MP Fabien Banciryanino has been charged with rebellion and uttering slanderous statements against late President Pierre Nkurunziza.

    Mr Banciryanino was arrested by intelligence officers last Friday near his home in Bujumbura.

    He was taken to court on Thursday and charged with "rebellion, an attempt on national security and slanderous denunciation", according to his lawyer.

    Mr Banciryanino had earlier in the year said in parliament that President Nkurunziza "should be prosecuted for rights violations and killings done when he was in power".

    He later lost his seat during the May elections.

    His lawyer Christophe Nkeringanji told the BBC that MPs should not be charged for statements uttered in parliament.

    The charges have elicited mixed reactions in Burundi with some people saying he was speaking for many, while others felt he disrespected the former president.

  4. DR Congo to host Great Lakes regional summit

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    A virtual summit of countries in the Great Lakes region is expected to take place on Wednesday following several postponements amid rising diplomatic tensions.

    Rwanda declined to participate in the summit initially planned for 14 September after the Democratic Republic of Congo summoned its envoy for allegedly downplaying his country’s role in a massacre of more than 30 people at a Catholic mission in the eastern town of Kasika in 1998.

    DR Congo's politicians and activists called for the envoy’s expulsion.

    Burundi skipped the meeting, saying senior officials in the country had a “busy agenda”.

    There are renewed tensions between Rwanda and Burundi after members from the Burundian armed group Red Taraba were apprehended in Rwanda’s southern Nyaruguru District.

    Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have deteriorated since 2019. The two have accused each other of espionage and arbitrary arrests and detentions of their respective nationals.

  5. Ex-Burundi MP held for 'attempt to overthrow government'

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Former Burundian MP Fabien Banciryanino is in police detention for what the authorities said was an attempt to overthrow the government, according to his family.

    Mr Banciryanino was arrested on Friday after a press conference that he had called for that day was cancelled, a close family member told the BBC.

    He was taken by police from his home in the commercial capital, Bujumbura, the family member added.

    Police have not commented on the claims.

    The former lawmaker was a critic of ex-President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died in June. He opposed a law that created a number of retirement perks for Mr Nkurunziza, including giving him the title of "supreme guide to patriotism".

    His press conference on Friday was to comment on accusations carried by a local YouTube channel that he had insulted the new President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, according to the family member.

  6. Burundi opposition condemns 'mass arrests'

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi's main opposition party, the National Freedom Council (CNL), has condemned what it calls the mass arrest of its members who are accused of being linked to rebel attacks in the west of the country.

    “CNL members are being arrested while we have nothing to do with the rebels,” party leader Agathon Rwasa told the BBC.

    The party said nearly 100 of its members have been arrested in less than two weeks and most of them have not been taken to court.

    The ministries of justice and security have not responded to the BBC's request for comment.

    CNL was the main challenger in May's general election that saw the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, retain the presidency.

    Mr Rwasa finished second with 24% of the vote.

    He said his party's representatives in the south-western Bururi province have been arrested for holding an "illegal meeting".

    Mr Rwasa added that there was "nothing illegal in a regular meeting of a political party".

  7. Rights abuses 'continue in Burundi despite new president'

    Evariste Ndayishimiye
    Image caption: Evariste Ndayishimiye took over from Pierre Nkurunziza, who had died earlier in the month

    A UN Commission of Inquiry into alleged human rights violations says that despite a new government in Burundi, there has been no progress in improving human rights.

    UN investigators have said that while there had been hope for change when President Evariste Ndayishimiye replaced Pierre Nkurunziza in June so far those hopes had not been realised.

    They have just completed their latest report covering May 2019 to May 2020, the UN’s fourth into Burundi, which suggests that serious violations had continued unabated.

    But the investigators also looked into the current situation.

    Discussing their findings, Francoise Hampson, said that though there was an expectation that the new president would usher in a new era, "there have continued to be killings... arbitrary detention and disappearances... and that is a matter of very grave concern".

  8. Burundi refugees return home from Rwanda as ties thaw

    Burundian refugees at Mahama camp in eastern Rwanda

    Burundi refugees who fled to neighbouring Rwanda in 2015 following political unrest have started returning home as diplomatic ties between the two East Africa neighbours warm up.

    The first group of more than 500 people left Mahama camp in eastern Rwanda early Thursday, after they had tested negative for coronavirus.

    The camp hosts more than 60,000 Burundian refugees.

    “I am extremely happy to be going back home, I fled with three children and I am going back with five and their mother, we are all fine,” Emmanuel Bizimana told BBC Great Lakes aboard one of the buses.

    A spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, Elise Villechalane, said more than 1,800 refugees in the camp have registered to go back home.

    “We can’t take them all now because a transit camp to temporally lodge them in Burundi can only host around 500,” she told the BBC.

    Burundian refugees at Mahama camp in eastern Rwanda

    Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye had earlier this month accused Rwanda of “holding the refugees hostage” and said his country “will never have relations with a country that uses irony” in its relations.

    But on Wednesday the army chiefs of the two countries met at the border in “efforts to resolve conflicts”.

    UNHCR’s data released in June showed that more than 430,000 Burundians refugees live in the East Africa region.

  9. Burundi and Rwanda army bosses meet at border

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Stop sign and a bus
    Image caption: Tensions between the two countries have hindered cross-border activity

    The armies from Burundi and Rwanda met on Wednesday in “efforts to resolve conflicts”, the regional body secretary says.

    Wednesday's meeting at the border between military intelligence chiefs was organised by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a 12-country body aiming at peace and stability.

    Zakary Muburi-Muita, secretary general of the ICGLR says the meeting is a “good start to solving issues” between the two neighbours.

    “I am optimistic, for the fact that they have agreed to sit around a table and address the issues that have been on for some time between them, this is a very good start indeed.” Mr Muburi-Muita told BBC Great Lakes.

    Mr Muburi-Muita said that the new leadership in Burundi was also “an opportunity to explore the issues that remain between the two countries to improve their relationship”.

    Since 2015, Burundi and Rwanda have experienced political tensions and military incidents on their border, which have seen cross-border activities hindered, affecting the lives of thousands of people.

  10. Gunmen kill at least 15 in southern Burundi attack

    BBC World Service

    A map of Burundi

    At least 15 people are reported to have been killed when gunmen carried out an attack in southern Burundi.

    The fighting in Bugarama District in Rumonge province began on Sunday and continued into Monday, forcing people to flee their homes and hide in the bush.

    In a post on social media a rebel group based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo said it had carried out the attack.

    A senior government official said the violence was potentially linked to the imminent repatriation of refugees who fled to Rwanda after fleeing violence in Burundi in 2017.

  11. TV-watching children die in Burundi hair salon blast

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    A hand grenade attack has killed three children who were watching television at a hair salon near Burundi's economic capital Bujumbura, security officials say.

    Eight other children were wounded in the blast on Thursday morning in the residential area of Gahahe on the outskirts of Bujumbura, a police spokesperson said.

    Images of injured children and crying mothers at the scene have been posted on social media.

    Three people have been arrested in connection with the attack, police say.

    It is unclear clear if the children, aged between six and 12 years, were the target.

    Schoolchildren are currently on holiday in Burundi.

    Children from poor homes that do not have television sets normally stand outside salons to watch programmes through the windows.

  12. Rwanda doubts Burundi wants to normalise ties

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    President Evariste Ndayishimiye
    Image caption: Évariste Ndayishimiye became Burundi's president in June

    Rwanda's foreign minister has expressed doubts on the willingness of neighbouring Burundi to normalise diplomatic ties.

    This comes after last week's remarks by Burundi's new President Évariste Ndayishimiye that his country “will never have relations with a country that uses irony” in its relations.

    Mr Ndayishimiye accused Rwanda of “holding hostage” nearly 72,000 Burundian refugees.

    Rwanda's Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta on Wednesday denied the accusations.

    The refugees fled to Rwanda in 2015 during Burundi's political crisis following a declaration by former President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would vie for a controversial third term.

    The repatriation of the refugees has been a sticking point between the neighbours.

    The two countries also accuse each other of harbouring their respective enemies.

    Mr Biruta told journalists in the capital, Kigali, that Rwanda wants good relations with its neighbours - especially Burundi - but expressed “doubts" on the country's willingness to normalise relations.

  13. Burundians jailed for stoning new president's convoy

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi's Presidential candidate of the ruling party the National Council for the Defense of Democracy - Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), reacts to supporters during the last day of their campaign in Bujumbura on May 16, 2020, ahead of the Presidential and General election scheduled for May 20, 2020 despite the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic
    Image caption: Evariste Ndayishimiye won disputed presidential elections in May

    A court in northern Burundi has sentenced two men and a woman to 30 years in prison for attempting to assassinate new President Evariste Ndayishimiye after they threw stones at his convoy.

    The prosecutor requested the court in Kayanza province to jail the three to seven years for causing insecurity for the president, but the court decided to convict them of trying to kill him and sentenced each of them to 30 years in prison, local radio station Isanganiro reported.

    The three, who were employed at Engen petrol station in Kayanza town, were accused of stoning the convoy from their work place when Mr Ndayishimiye visited the area last Wednesday.

    They denied the charge.

    “Many people were arrested after the incident, some were released afterwards but a woman and two men who work at a petrol station remained in jail and were sentenced this Sunday,” a resident in Kayanza told BBC Great Lakes.

    President Ndayishimiye was due to take power on 20 August after he won elections in May. However, he was inaugurated in June after the sudden death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza.

  14. Burundi refugees call for deal to allow them home

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Refugees holding their hands up
    Image caption: Thousands fled to Rwanda in 2015 after tensions rose over President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in office

    A letter written by a group of Burundian refugees living in a camp in Rwanda asks their president to cooperate with Rwanda and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to repatriate them. However, there is not yet an agreement between the two countries and the UNHCR on how to carry it out.

    More than 60,000 Burundian refugees have been living in Mahama camp, in eastern Rwanda, since the 2015 political crisis over the late former President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.

    More than 300 Mahama residents signed the letter to their president accusing some exiled Burundian politicians of "wanting them to stay in the camp for their own interests".

    Emmanuel Bizimana, one of the signatories told the BBC that "now it is time now to return home", adding:

    Quote Message: We know our country is safe now, that's why we wrote to our president."

    In his inaugural speech in June, President Evariste Ndayishimiye pleaded for refugees to return and since then nearly 2,000 have come back from Tanzania, UN figures show.

    But there is not yet an agreement between Rwanda, Burundi and the UNHCR to allow the refugees in Rwanda to come back.

  15. Burundi should break cycle of violence - UN

    Imogen Foulkes

    BBC News, Geneva

    UN investigators have called on Burundi's new president to improve the country's human rights record and break the cycle of violence.

    In a report, they asked President Evariste Ndayishimiye, who was sworn in last month, to address violence committed by the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure.

    The report also asked Burundi's new government to co-operate with its investigation into human rights violations, allow the re-opening of its office in the country and release detained journalists.

    Burundi’s representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva said the report was politically motivated.

    President Ndayishimiye took over after the sudden death of former President Pierre Nkurunziza. He was already poised to become president after having won May's election as the candidate for the governing party.

    While Mr Nkurunziza was still in power, BBC Africa Eye reported on Burundi's security services running secret torture sites to silence dissent. The government has always denied any human rights violations, and declined to comment on that 2018 report.

    Watch:

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    Video caption: Burundi: Inside the Secret Killing House
  16. Burundi couple marries days after motorbike crash

    Florentine Kwizera

    BBC Great Lakes

    Charlotte Mukantwari married Gabin Ndayizigiye
    Image caption: People flocked to the hospital to witness the ceremony

    A young couple in Burundi's northern city of Kirundo have surprised many by proceeding with their wedding plans despite the groom being involved in a serious accident a few days earlier.

    Charlotte Mukantwari married Gabin Ndayizigiye at the hospital where he was being treated following a motorcycle accident on 30 June.

    She has been at his bedside since the accident happened and both decided to hold the ceremony on 4 July as they had planned.

    Despite the priest telling Ms Mukantwari to dress down, in what he expected to be a low-key event, she showed up wearing a wedding dress.

    "‘I’ve been waiting for that date, facing that challenge was like facing the devil's temptation, I couldn’t imagine my life by missing it," Ms Mukantwari told the BBC Gahuza service.

    Curious locals also thronged the hospital building where the ceremony was being held, to witness the ceremony.

    Mr Ndayizigiye said he was touched by his wife's insistence to proceed with the wedding despite not knowing whether he would be able to walk again.

    He made a brief appearance to take his marriage vows and was then rushed back to his hospital bed.

  17. French-speaking bloc lifts Burundi sanctions

    The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) - an organisation of French-speaking countries - has lifted sanctions imposed on Burundi four years ago "in light of recent political developments", the organisation said in a statement on its website.

    The announcement was also made on Twitter by OIF secretary general Louise Mushikiwabo:

    "A very good session of the permanent council of the Francophonie. At the heart of the debate: a strengthened and humane multilateralism, attentive to the needs of our populations, plus the lifting of the 2016 sanctions against Burundi, in accordance with procedures," she said.

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    The sanctions were put in place after late President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office in 2015 sparked violence.

    The OIF is made up of 57 member states whose main language is French.

  18. Burundi begins mass coronavirus testing

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi coronavirus mass testing
    Image caption: The country's new president has insisted on a tougher stance

    Burundi has launched a mass testing campaign for coronavirus, in a fresh campaign by the new government to fight the spread of the pandemic.

    Former President Pierre Nkurunziza was accused of downplaying the issue, saying: "God had cleared [coronavirus] from Burundi's skies", almost a fortnight before he died last month of cardiac arrest.

    But last week, his successor Evariste Ndayishimiye, declared coronavirus a "major enemy of Burundians" and wowed "to start the fight against that enemy".

    At the launch of the campaign in main city of Bujumbura, many people were unusually seen wearing masks.

    A record 640 tests were taken on the day, the highest number since March when the virus was reported in the country.

    Since the new president took office on 18 June, more than 1,900 tests have been taken compared with only 1,200 taken before.

    The heath ministry says the campaign testing will continue in order to show the status of the virus in the country.

    Burundi has so far reported 191 cases from 3,200 tests done in the past three months.

  19. Burundi, South Sudan face expulsion from regional bloc

    Russell Padmore

    Business correspondent, BBC News

    East Africa's presidents
    Image caption: A final decision will be made when the heads of state next meet

    Burundi and South Sudan could soon lose their membership of the East African Community (EAC), which could undermine the stability of the regional economic bloc.

    The EAC's Assembly has voted to expel the two countries, because both have defaulted on their membership fees.

    A final decision on whether Burundi and South Sudan should be shown the exit door will be made when the heads of state of the member nations next meet.

    The members of the EAC, which also includes Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, are supposed to pay $8m (£6.5m) a year.

    But Burundi has paid nothing for four years, while South Sudan owes $10m.

    The government in Juba is struggling to cope with an economic crisis, caused by the recent civil war, but Burundi's reluctance to pay follows its demand for lower fees, based on its contention that its economy is smaller than its neighbours.

  20. Burundi president honours Nkurunziza's son

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Kelly Nkurunziza receives the hero's award from Burundi President Ndayishimiye

    Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye has awarded a hero's medal to the eldest son of former President Pierre Nkurunziza.

    Lieutenant Kelly Nkurunziza was awarded the national medal by his father's successor during Wednesday's Independence Day celebrations.

    The younger Nkurunziza was commissioned as an army officer in March by his father to the rank of second-lieutenant after he finished commando training in the country.

    He was subsequently promoted to the rank of lieutenant a day before the July 1 celebrations.

    The former president died in office last month.

    “Because of his discipline and heroism, everyone who saw him says ‘this young man will become something," Mr Ndayishimiye, who was a close ally of the late president, said.

    The president also rewarded two soldiers including one who was recently killed as he "bravely fought the neighbour of the north" in Lake Rweru, near the border with Rwanda.

    In May, Burundi and Rwanda soldiers clashed at the border lake, in one of several recent military incidents that reflect the five-year lon tensions between the two neighbours.