Burundi

  1. Burundi to lift ban on BBC broadcasts

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi's media regulatory body has announced the BBC can resume operations in the country two years after it was banned.

    “There are no more obstacles for the BBC to operate in Burundi," acting chairman Lurent Kagimbi of the National Communication Council (CNC) said.

    "However, the BBC will need to submit a request to obtain a new operation licence because its licence was withdrawn," he added.

    The BBC World Service was banned in March 2019 following a BBC Eye documentary that exposed secret detention and torture sites run by the country’s security services.

    The government of late President Pierre Nkurunziza dismissed and condemned the documentary, aired in December 2018, before eventually banning the BBC more than three months later.

    It was prevented from broadcasting in Burundi as well as reporting from the country.

    Other media organisations, including the Voice of America, were also banned in relation to their coverage of the 2015 violence following the controversial decision by Mr Nkurunziza go for a third term in office.

    A number of them have reopened since President Evariste Ndayishimiye came to power nearly a year ago.

    He directed the media regulator to hold discussions with all proscribed media groups so that they could resume operations.

  2. Row in Burundi over Muslim morning prayer call

    Bernard Bankukira

    BBC Great Lakes

    Muslims in Burundi pray outside a mosque
    Image caption: The minister asked Muslim clerics to keep the volume down for the morning call for prayers

    Muslim leaders in Burundi have disowned a cleric's criticism against the interior minister after he asked that sheikhs keep the volume down for the morning call to prayer so as not to disrupt the public.

    Interior Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca had also asked religious leaders to stop holding noisy night prayers.

    The minister made the request during a meeting with inter-religious leaders.

    In response, during one morning prayer, Ndikumana Rashid was heard slamming the minister asking him to withdraw and apologise for his remarks.

    Mr Rashid said the minister's comments were an open attack against Islam.

    Muslim representatives have however said that it considered the cleric's comments as an insult to the minister.

    The head of the Muslim Assembly in Burundi Zuberi Mohamed said there was no conflict between Muslims and the government adding that there was no law stopping them from calling for prayers as usual.

    He said the minister's remarks were "unlikely to ignite religious violence as Burundian Muslims are good-willed people".

  3. Former Burundi first lady eulogises Nkurunziza

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Former Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his wife Denise
    Image caption: Former Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza died on 8 June 2020

    Former Burundi first lady Denise Bucumi has eulogised her husband, one year since he died, saying he "left a good legacy".

    Pierre Nkurunziza died on 8 June 2020 after what the government said was heart complications.

    Mrs Nkurunziza said on Tuesday that her husband "went in peace" adding that the family had been touched by testimonies given by members of the public.

    The former president remains a controversial figure in Burundi, critics say his administration oversaw extrajudicial killings, rights violations, cracked down against the opposition and ruined Burundi's economy, sinking many into poverty.

    He is however praised by supporters who gave him the title “supreme guide to patriotism”.

    Nkurunziza is also remembered for downplaying Covid-19, saying once that “God has cleared it out of Burundi's sky”.

    His successor Evariste Ndayishimiye changed the policy and declared to fight the virus, saying it was “number one enemy”.

  4. Burundi president starts visit to Kenya

    Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye has arrived in Kenya for a two-day visit.

    This is Mr Ndayishimiye's sixth foreign visit in less than a year in power.

    His predecessor, the late Pierre Nkurunziza, only left Burundi once during his last term in office when he went by road to neighbouring Tanzania.

    Mr Ndayishimiye's visit to Kenya was an “opportunity to strengthen brotherhood relations between Burundians and Kenyans”, his spokesperson said in a statement.

    Since winning the presidency in June 2020, Mr Ndayishimiye has been keen to revive diplomatic relations after Burundi isolated itself following a coup attempt in May 2015.

    Early this month, the president visited Uganda, another member of the East African Community bloc.

    The bloc is riddled with tensions between members and its current chairman, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, seems intent on solving some of the rows.

    Mr Ndayishimiye is accompanied by First Lady Angeline Ndayubaha on the trip and they are scheduled to attend Kenya’s Madaraka Day celebrations on Tuesday - marking the day Kenya attained internal self-rule - in the western town of Kisumu.

    State House in Kenya tweeted photos of their arrival:

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  5. Bus park targeted in Burundi grenade attacks

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    Several people have been killed and dozens wounded after four grenades exploded in the commercial capital, Bujumbura, at around 19:00 on Tuesday evening.

    "According to corroborating sources, four grenade attacks were carried out... The first one was reported in the bus parking lot at Ngagara market, commonly known as Cotebu," the privately owned Iwacu website says.

    There are conflicting reports on the number of people killed or wounded after the explosions.

    The Ministry of Information, which described the incidents as terror attacks, said that at least two people had been killed.

    Iwacu news website reported that four people had died and several others were wounded.

    The SOS Médias website reported that six were killed in the attacks.

    The ministry said the attackers had been arrested and a probe was under way.

    Iwacu reported that a man in possession of grenades and believed to have been behind the attacks had also been shot dead by the police.

    SOS Médias said those arrested "had mostly been found in cafés, restaurants and bars around where the blasts took place".

    Following the fallout of a failed coup attempt in 2015, Burundi has continued to grapple with sporadic incidents of violence, most of which are ethnic-based or carried out by the youth wing of the ruling party, Imbonerakure.

    Incursions by Burundian rebels based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are largely confined to the Kibira Natural Reserve in the western region.

  6. Burundi army official killed in road ambush

    A map of Burundi

    At least eight people including a Burundian army official were killed on Sunday night along the Bujumbura-Gitega road around Muramvya area.

    Local media outlets are reporting it as an ambush while police say it was a robbery incident. Eyewitnesses say nothing was stolen from the victims.

    Col Onesphore Nizigiyimana who had served with the United Nations Mission in Somalia (Unsom) and a central bank employee were among those killed, according to the iBurundi news website.

    Several other people were injured and vehicles were set on fire, the news website reports.

  7. Burundi trade minister sacked over plane sale

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi’s Minister for Trade, Transport, Industry and Tourism, Immaculée Ndabaneze has been sacked for "putting the economy at risk and tarnishing the image of the country".

    She was briefly held, questioned and released on Sunday pending investigations.

    Mrs Ndabaneze is facing corruption allegations over the sale of an aircraft belonging to the now defunct national carrier Air Burundi.

    The plane was sold between December 2020 and January 2021 “to a South African businessman at ridiculously low price”, Olucome-Burundi a local anti-corruption NGO wrote on Twitter.

    She has not responded to the accusation.

  8. Burundians return from Rwanda after UN slashes food aid

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Rwandan refugees returning
    Image caption: Refugees tell the BBC they expected solutions from a top UN official's visit

    The UN refugee agency's high commissioner has crossed the border from Rwanda into Burundi alongside 159 refugees who are being repatriated.

    Filippo Grandi joined the convoy as an observer while visiting the Great Lakes the region.

    A spokeswoman tells the BBC that more than 23,000 refugees have been repatriated since last August.

    More than 100,000 refugees fled to neighbouring Rwanda during the 2015 political crisis in Burundi, and more than 60,000 still live in Rwanda.

    Many more have registered to go back home since March, when the UN's food agency reduced cut food aid by 60% to refugees in Rwanda blaming a sharp fall in international aid.

    Many refugees in Rwanda said they expected solutions from Mr Grandi's visit, "but we haven’t heard any comforting news from him”, David Ngarura of Mahama refugee camp told BBC.

    Mr Grandi is now visiting Burundi after Rwanda and DR Congo.

  9. How girls are beating the IT gap in Burundi

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Natacha Nduwimana (L) and a student at a computer skill workshop in Bujumbura, Burundi
    Image caption: Natacha Nduwimana (L) says coding is the language of the future

    Natacha Nduwimana is on a mission to get girls in Burundi interested in computers.

    She runs BiHub, an organisation that promotes equal access to digital skills, which has trained more than 10,000 girls on coding and creating apps since 2017.

    Girls learning ICT
    Image caption: BiHub organises workshops for girls attending government secondary schools

    Much of the training is done for government secondary schools, where she says girls often tend to be insecure and less confident than boys.

    "The girls we see are intimidated; secondly they didn't get the chance to access computers from a young age," Ms Nduwimana told the BBC.

    Computer skills are only introduced on the national curriculum in the second year at high school.

    At private primary schools, on the other hand, computers are part of the norm so girls gain confidence at an early age - leaving them on a more equal footing as they get older.

    For Ms Nduwimana even skills such as coding should be taught from a young age - and she want the government to include it on the school curriculum.

    "Coding is the language of the future," she says.

    Her determination is borne out by 22-year-old Noëlla Tuyishimire, who is studying computer science at Bujumbura International University.

    Noëlla Tuyishimire
    Image caption: Noëlla Tuyishimire says families tend to discourage girls who want to pursue IT

    She attended some BiHub workshops when she was at a government high school in Bujumbura - Burundi’s main city - and came first in their #eSkills4Girls competition at the age of 19.

    "The first thing BiHub did for me was that it made me feel confident because in the past I was afraid when in public,” she told the BBC.

    But such was the boost her new-found skills gave her that she changed her focus from studying economics to IT when she left secondary school.

    Ms Tuyishimire says families tend to discourage girls who want to pursue IT, telling them it is a male industry.

    The undergraduate now volunteers at BiHub to try and pass on her love to other girls.

    “We, just like boys, are able to perform in the new technologies too. And I want to be a role model to others,” she says.

  10. Lake rise disrupts activities in Burundi city

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News

    Traffic has been closed on Avenue de la Plage in Bujumbura
    Image caption: Beach businesses have been hit by the unprecedented rise in Lake Tanganyika's water level

    A main road in Burundi's largest city of Bujumbura has been closed following an unprecedented rise in decades of Lake Tanganyika's water level.

    The authorities said the move was ‘’to prevent accidents and further damage to the now water-drenched road”.

    The lakeside Avenue de la Plage street connects the country’s main port facility to the central and southern parts of the city.

    The director-general of the roads authority, Regis Mpawenayo, said they would wait until the dry season starting in July to assess the appropriate action to take.

    Meanwhile businesses, mainly restaurants and bars at the beach, have been hard hit.

    Omar Manirambona, who runs Safi Beach near the Bujumbura port, told the BBC that his premises were now under water up to 70%.

    ‘’We were hosting live concerts of local and foreign musicians, we had games for children, brides were coming here for photos on their wedding days, now we are almost doing nothing," he said.

    Geography professor Bernard Sindayihebura, who has been monitoring Lake Tanganyika's behaviour, said its water level usually rises every 50 years or so. The last time it did was in 1964.

    The expert said the rise was partly down to heavy rains and climate change.

    Three other countries share the Lake Tanganyika riparian border - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia.

  11. Burundi 'not yet ready' for Covid vaccines

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News

    Burundians wash their hands, as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, on their arrival of their repatriation in Gatumba,
    Image caption: Burundi does not have a rollout plan for the vaccination of its 12 million citizens

    Burundi will wait for more research to establish the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines before administering them, the country's health minister has said.

    Dr Thadee Ndikumana said the country was “not against vaccines” but there was no certainty on their possible side effects.

    “Looking at the rate of people who recover from the disease, we have chosen to wait," he said, adding that 96% of people who catch the virus recover from it.

    Countries in the region including Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya have already started their immunisation campaigns.

    Burundi has so far officially recorded 2,618 coronavirus cases with just six deaths since the first case was detected at the end of March last year.

    The minister defended the government against allegations that the rate of infections could be higher, saying it was based on the number of people who had been diagnosed and tested positive by official health facilities.

  12. Burundi's president mourns 'true pan-Africanist'

    Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye has described Tanzania's leader John Magufuli, who has died aged 61, as a "great leader" and a "true pan-Africanist".

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    Mr Magufuli had not been on a single official visit to a Western nation since becoming president in 2015.

    He styled himself as a stout African nationalist and a devout Catholic waging war against foreign powers seeking to exploit the East African nation.

    Mr Magufuli revived use of the Swahili word "beberu". It literally means "a male goat", but it was commonly used to refer to "Western imperialists" when Tanzania was fighting for independence, and when a socialist government took office following the end of British colonial rule.

  13. Burundi bans maize imports for six months

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News

    Maize grain
    Image caption: Maize is a staple food in parts of Burundi while its bran is used to feed cattle

    Burundi's Ministry of Commerce has banned maize grain and flour imports for the next six months starting 8 March.

    A statement from the ministry said recently imported maize was "not good" and could affect people’s health.

    It didn't specify which countries the imports were from.

    “While this grain and flour is being rejected by neighbouring countries… we need to make sure that it does not enter the country,’’ said Jeremie Banigwaninzigo, the permanent secretary in Burundi’s commerce ministry.

    The move comes after Kenya last week banned maize from Uganda and Tanzania over safety concerns.

    Most of Burundi’s maize imports are from Uganda and Zambia - but it’s not clear to what extent the country relies on imports to satisfy its needs.

    The central African nation had a good yield from the last crop season, the official said, reassuring consumers that the commodity would be available even with the ban.

    Maize is a staple food in parts of Burundi while its bran is used to feed cattle.

  14. African designers open Milan Fashion Week

    BBC World Service

    The five Fabiola Manirakiza from Burundi, Claudia Gisele Ntsama from Cameroon, the Senegalese Mokodu Fall, Joy Meribe of Nigeria and the Moroccan Karim Daoudi a
    Image caption: (L-R) Karim Daoudi, Mokodu, Claudia, Frida and Meribe

    Five African-born designers have opened the Milan Fashion Week, a first for Italy's most prestigious couture show.

    The co-founder of the collective "Made in Italy", Michelle Ngonmo, called the event, which was pre-recorded because of the coronavirus pandemic, a first step towards a more equal society.

    She acknowledged the debt owed to the Black Lives Matter movement, but said the five designers she had picked had demonstrated that the "Made in Italy" label was not a question of skin colour but of know-how.

    The five - Fabiola Manirakiza from Burundi, Claudia Gisele Ntsama from Cameroon, the Senegalese Mokodu Fall, Joy Meribe of Nigeria and the Moroccan Karim Daoudi - all learnt some of their skills in Africa but are now naturalised Italian citizens.

    Previously, the presentation of the collections of black designers was confined to Afro Fashion Week, which launched in Milan with a show in 2016.

    Ms Ngonmo was featured on the BBC's documentary Being Black in Italy.

  15. 'Happy to be first top Ethiopian official’ to visit Burundi

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News, Bujumbura

    Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde and her Burundian counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye

    Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde has said she was happy to be the "first top Ethiopian leader" to visit Burundi.

    President Sahle-Work was welcomed at the airport by her Burundian counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye on Tuesday.

    She told journalists that during her two days official visit the leaders would discuss possible sectors both countries could partner in.

    A statement by Burundi presidency said the visit aims to “strengthen the long existing bilateral relations” of the two countries.

    President Sahle-Work, a former Ethiopia top diplomat, is believed to be on a mission to rally the East African region behind her country on the Tigray region crisis amid international criticism, according to a regional political analyst from International Crisis Group (ICG).

    ICG’s Onesphore Sematumba said Ms Zewde, who recently visited Democratic Republic Congo, might be seeking Burundi's support.

    He said “this is an opportunity” for President Ndayishimiye to demonstrate that his country is "now a destination”, after relations soured during the rule of late president Pierre Nkurunziza.

  16. Exiled Burundi coup plotters sentenced to life

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Protesters in Bujumbura celebrated  after the attempted coup
    Image caption: People were seen celebrating after the coup attempt was foiled

    Those accused of plotting a coup in Burundi in 2015 were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court last year, documents made pubic on Friday reveal.

    They include former army generals, politicians, journalists and right activists - all sentenced in absentia.

    Burundi was plunged into a political crisis following the coup attempt in which thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands others fled to neighbouring countries.

    Court documents show that a total of 34 suspects were found guilty in June 2020.

    They were ordered to pay a collective fine 1.5bn Burundi francs ($780,000; £567,000) to victims of the coup, which includes the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

    Those found guilty include:

    • Godefroid Niyombare - a general and the alleged leader of the plot
    • Bernard Busokoza - a former vice-president
    • Potien Gaciyubwenge - a former defence minister
    • Onesime Nduwimana - a former communications minister
    • Leonidas Hatungimana - a former presidential spokesman
    • Marguerite Barankitse - a government critic
    • Onesime Nduwimana - a former opposition MP.

    The whereabouts of Gen Niyombare and the other top officials are unknown - they all fled after the failed coup.

    "This is a case of hatred. And a hidden political trial," Mr Nduwimana told the BBC.

    "A group trial that doesn’t show everyone’s role, a trial that no suspect attended, it is only a case of hatred, and political decision paper given to judges to sign on."

  17. New Africa quarantine rules as UK infections soar

    Visitors from 17 African nations are already banned from entering the UK, as the country grapples with one of the highest per capita coronavirus death rates in the world.

    Now British passport-holders and people with residency rights entering the UK from those same countries will have to self-isolate for 10 days from 15 February onwards.

    New arrivals must stay in government-approved hotels during that time, and will have to foot the bill themselves at an estimated cost of $100 (£73) per night.

    A total of 33 countries are covered by the quarantine order – including all of South America, and these African nations:

    • Angola
    • Botswana
    • Burundi
    • Cape Verde
    • Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • ESwatini
    • Lesotho
    • Malawi
    • Mauritius
    • Mozambique
    • Namibia
    • Rwanda
    • Seychelles
    • South Africa
    • Tanzania
    • Zambia
    • Zimbabwe

    Travellers from lower risk countries will still need to show a negative virus test upon arrival in the UK.

    Read more:

  18. Rwanda and Burundi added to UK travel ban list

    A laboratory technician processes samples for testing the Covid-19 novel coronavirus at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre
    Image caption: Rwanda says more than half of its total deaths from coronavirus have been recorded this month

    Burundi and Rwanda have been added to the "red list" of countries from where travel to the UK is banned.

    The measure, aimed at stopping the spread of the South African variant, comes into force from 13:00 GMT on Friday.

    British, Irish and third country nationals with residence rights in the UK will be allowed to enter but must self-isolate for 10 days at home.

    UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps said passengers allowed to enter the country would need proof of a negative test and a completed passenger locator form before arrival, or could face two £500 ($684) fines.

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    Last week, the Rwandan authorities imposed a 15-day lockdown in the capital, Kigali, to limit a second wave of coronavirus cases. The restrictions will end next Tuesday.

    January has been the deadliest month for the East African country. The authorities say more than half of the total deaths were recorded this month, as well as one third of the total 13,885 cases.

    Earlier this month, Burundi closed its land and water borders to contain the spread of the virus.

    Read more:

  19. Burundi president wants 'fresh start with the media'

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News, Bujumbura

    Microphones in a radio studio

    Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye has asked the country’s media council to "immediately discuss with media who’ve been suspended or banned in the country" so that they may reopen.

    Among such media is the BBC World Service, which was banned from broadcasting in, and working from, Burundi since March 2019. The Voice of America was also suspended from then.

    The president met media leaders and experts on Thursday in the economic capital Bujumbura.

    Mr Ndayishimiye promised to end wrangles between the government and media sector, and said he wanted "a fresh start with the sector towards the country’s development".

    Some local media premises accused of backing the 2015 coup attempt were burned and destroyed in its wake, and subsequently banned or suspended.

    These include two FM broadcasters and one TV station, which are now operating from neighbouring Rwanda.

    It’s not clear whether these will also be allowed to engage in the talks about resuming activities.