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EU to Burundi: respect human rights to get aid

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The European Union has asked Burundi to allow the UN Human Rights Office to resume operations in the country to give negotiations on Brussels lifting its suspension on aid against Bujumbura a fighting chance.

The activities of the office were suspended by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government in October last year, leaving the tracking of excesses against citizens and independent organisations to non-governmental organisations that operate from outside Burundi.

“We have told the authorities the first step is to resume co-operation with the office, because the monitoring by NGOs outside the country is quite different from the reality,” a diplomatic source told The EastAfrican.

Burundi suspended co-operation with the United Nations Human Rights Office after the release of a report by a UN investigation on Burundi that indicated widespread and systematic violations of human rights in the country by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNND-FDD party.

The government rejected the report, terming it biased and influenced by the EU in order to destabilise Burundi. Critics say the Imbonerakure is a militia that is used by the government to intimidate people holding views that are contrary to the official government position.

Amnesty International petitioned the East African Community last week to prioritise ending human-rights violations in Burundi.

“The need to find a solution to this ongoing human-rights crisis is more urgent than ever, and the EAC is an essential part of it,” said Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty.

The call came amid reports that a journalist had gone missing, raising fears he may be the latest in a long list of disappearances that have not been resolved. In the four months to January 2017, 210 disappearances were reported.

Since 2015, when President Nkurunziza vied for a controversial third term, Burundi has suffered international isolation, with the possible exception of China and Russia. But support from the West has continued to trickle in for social programmes, especially in health.

In May 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza left for an East African Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam. Hours later, there was a coup attempt by Gen Godefroid Niyombare, which was foiled in 24 hours.

President Nkurunziza has since shunned foreign travel and the Burundian delegation to the EAC Heads of State Summit is led by the First Vice-President, Gaston Sindimwo.


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