Burundi shuts UN human rights office

Mary Harper

Africa editor, BBC World Service

People gather to demonstrate outside the office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner in Bujumbura in April 2015.
The UN Human Rights Office was set up in Burundi in 1995 after a wave of ethnic killings

The United Nations Human Rights Office in Burundi has been forced to close at the insistence of the government.

The Burundian authorities suspended co-operation with the human rights office in 2016, and insist there is no longer any need for such an office as they have made so much progress on human rights.

The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, begs to differ. She says much of this progress has been put into serious jeopardy since 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in office, prompting months of violence.

The UN Human Rights Office was set up in Burundi in 1995 following a wave of ethnic killings.

The events of 2015 show that Burundi is still fragile, with the potential for political and ethnic violence lurking just below the surface.

Burundian opposition leader criticises ban on party launch

BBC World Service

Burundian opposition leader Agathon Rwasa
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The Burundian opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, has criticised the authorities for preventing him from launching his new political party in the capital, Bujumbura.

He said it showed that some of those in power had not moved on from the days of civil war.

The ban was issued on Saturday by the mayor of Bujumbura, citing security concerns.

The authorities initially refused to allow Mr Rwasa to set up a new party, insisting he change its name.

Mr Rwasa - who says he will run for president in next year's elections - was a rebel leader during Burundi's long civil war.

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Mkapa ends role in Burundi talks

Benjamin Mkapa
President Mkapa's spokesman denied that he had resigned from the role

The role of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the facilitator of talks to resolve the political crisis in Burundi has ended, his spokesman has told BBC Kirundi.

The crisis was sparked in 2015 after President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a controversial third term.

"The facilitation phase has ended,’’ Makocha Tembele said.

He denied reports that President Mkapa had resigned.

"It is the end of his mandate," he said, adding that Mr Mkapa had presented his final report during the last regional heads of state summit held earlier this month.

Mr Tembele said it was now up to Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to carry on with the next phase of mediation before the next elections due in 2020.

The 2015 crisis created deep divisions resulting in violent clashes between government forces and the opposition.

At least 1,000 people were killed following an attempted coup in the same year.

The talks are largely seen to have failed as the government repeatedly refused to send delegations to the meetings.

President Nkurunziza said last year he would not run for office again but the political crisis remains unresolved.

Inside Burundi's Killing Machine

BBC Africa Eye ask if Burundi’s repression of opponents has now gone underground?
Former Burundian intelligence agents say that the country’s security services are running secret torture and detention sites to silence dissent. Using cutting edge reconstruction techniques BBC Africa Eye examines one house in particular, which was filmed in a video posted on social media in 2016. A red liquid, which looked like blood, was seen pouring from its gutter. We ask if Burundi’s repression of opponents has now gone underground? The government has always denied any human rights violations, and declined to comment for this report. 

A BBC Africa Eye investigation - produced and directed by Charlotte Attwood and Maud Jullien.
Edited by Suzanne Vanhooymissen
Spatial reconstruction and Situated Testimony: Forensic Architecture
Motion Graphics: Tom Flannery

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French broadcaster sued over 'Burundi massacre' footage

Prime Ndikumagenge

BBC Africa

Pierre Nkurunziza
President Nkurunziza won a third term in office in 2015

A defamation case lodged by Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza against a French TV channel, a Belgian lawyer and a Burundian writer has begun at a court in France's capital, Paris.

Mr Nkurunziza says that three years ago France 3 broadcast footage showing scenes of a massacre allegedly carried out on one of his properties by the ruling party’s youth wing.

But he says that the footage was not recorded in Burundi but somewhere in West Africa.

A ticker bar over the footage said "Proof of acts of violence in Burundi", alleging it was filmed in Karuzi, north-west of the capital, Bujumbura.

It was aired at the peak of election-related violence in Burundi in 2016.

It purported to show members of the Burundian opposition, who “were assassinated before being castrated and having their throats slit by enthusiastic executioners", France24 reports.

It also had footage of people speaking in Hausa, a language that is not spoken in Burundi or any of its neighbouring countries, France24 said.

After Mr Nkurunziza raised his concerns about the footage, France 3 apologised.

A Belgian lawyer, Bernard Maingain, is believed to have handed the video to the French channel while the Burundian writer David Gakunzi was interviewed on air about the footage.

The Burundian government has been criticised by the international community for alleged human rights abuses blamed on its security agencies and the ruling party's youth wing known as Imbonerakure.

Authorities in Burundi have always rejected the allegations as fabrications.

The case continues.

Burundi to change its capital city

Mural on national assembly wall
Getty Images
The national assembly, pictured, is among the political offices that will move to Gitenga

The Burundian parliament has voted to move the country’s capital from Bujumbura back to the ancient capital of Gitega.

The vote took place on Wednesday and the leader of parliament said the move would take place over three years.

The first to move will be the upper house of parliament, the Senate - starting on Friday.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has to sign off the change, promised in 2007 to move the capital, saying Gitega was geographically more centrally placed in Burundi, AFP reports.

Others have been more sceptical about the motives behind the move.

Journalist Abdi Latif Dahir suggests in an article on the Quartz news site that it could be linked to Bujumbura "increasingly being an opposition stronghold, leading to continued clashes between protesters and police".

Bujumbura will remain the economic capital of the country.

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