According to political analysts, as African election draws near, critics continue to be increasingly silenced. Burundian authorities had arrested a prominent radio personality Bob Rugurika for airing a series of investigations into the murder of three elderly Italian nuns on September 2014. The broadcasts had allegations about the involvement of senior intelligence officials during the murders.
Rugurika had been arrested without evidence.
He was detained in an isolation cell and he was not permitted any visits.
African Director Daniel Bekele said “Rugurika’s arrest and prosecution appear to be an attempt to silence him and prevent his radio station from investigating and reporting on sensitive issues.
“Burundi’s justice system shouldn’t be used to stifle media freedom.”
Rugurika’s arrest is just one part of government attacks against journalists, activists and members of political parties. Limiting freedom of expression had become an increasing activity for many authorities who are escalating their electoral campaigns as the voting season draws near in May.
Rugurika’s show had interviewed a man who claimed he has participated in the attack against the Italian nuns. He had said senior officials in the intelligence and security forces were involved in the attack. The journalists of RPA had mentioned to the Human Rights Watch that the African radio station alerted the officials before the broadcasts. The offiicals said they did not wish to comment.
The UN Special Rapporteur expressed regret following the declaration of Human Rights Defenders in Burundi to be political opponents. Currently, threats and defamation campaigns from media outlets had pressured human rights defenders. They have reported a high number of physical threats, anonymous phone calls, assaults, arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment.
According to UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michel Forst, “I was very struck by the incredible vitality and professionalism of civil society in Burundi despite the difficult environment in which they work. They face serious obstacles that can amount to violations of their rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as their legitimate right to promote and protect human rights.”
Forst said that the Burundi government’s requirement that journalists reveal their sources is limiting the enjoyment of freedom of expression in Burundi. He brought to light the arrests and repeated threats against journalists who were dealing with issues such as allegations of arms distribution or the issuing of identity cards.
Forst added “A free, independent, and occasionally impertinent press, able to expose abuses of power and corruption, is essential to preserve civil liberties and to promote transparency and foster broad participation in public life.”
“By adopting an abusive interpretation of the concept of public order, in effect, the authorities muzzle freedom of assembly and demonstration in public spaces.”
The Burundi General Prosecutor Valentin Bagorikunda said on Tuesday that 40 bodies found in the border in the lake were all Rwandans. However, Rwanda continues to deny this. The plastic-wrapped bodies were discovered floating in the Rweru Lake in August. Their origin was still a mystery as no explanation has been offered by the government or local media.
Rwanda had denied that the bodies came from their side of the border. However, Bagorikunda found evidence that the bodies were from Rwanda. Reports from Burundi security forces and local witness statements from Rwanda and Burundi had agreed the bodies came from Rwanda.
The Rwandan government couldn’t be reached for comment.
Genocide, while minimal, has become a part of the unstable political landscape of both Burundi and Rwanda. Burundu had endured two decades of ethnic massacres which spiralled into a 12-year civil war ending in 2005.
Meanwhile, western countries including the United States had called for both countries to create a “concerted investigation” into the deaths.
Jaskaran Singh Jassa, suspected of killing Burundi Student Yannick Nihangaza, has been deported on Monday after his extradition from Australia. The Jalandhar Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Baljit Singh Dhillon had captured Jassa from Australia on Monday and placed him against an Indian court.
Jassa had flown to Australia a few days April 21, 2012 before authorities discovered his attack against Yannick. He died in a Burundi hospital in a comatose on July 1 2014. Jassa, as a Proclaimed Offender, was found by Australian authorities and extradited immediately.
Jassa had married an Australian citizen and was applying for permanent residency, but Interpol had found that India had sought for his extradition.
Yannick Nihangaza from Burundi was studying in Punjab, and became the victim of local youths in 2012. He was taking up Computer Engineering at Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar. Authorities and analysts suspect he was beaten up and brutally battered with racial overtones. Nine local youths in their mid-20s had attacked him, each coming from rich Indian families, including Jassa.
Yannic was found in a coma due to his severe head injuries. He was airlifted to Burundi on June 16.
Meanwhile, Jassa will be charged for attempt to murder and other murder charges will be added after the Indian Courts receive the needed legal documents.
The biggest outbreak of Ebola began with an infected bath who had bitten a toddler, according to the European and African Tropical Disease researchers comprised of a team of ecologists and anthropologists. They will be publishing the results of their research in a major journal after they conclude their research.
The team of researchers have taken samples in Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. They have captured bats and other creatures near Meliandoua, a town where in December 2013 noted its first Ebola case.
They said the toddler’s bite was passed to his mother, who both died within a week. As people in their funeral mourned their bodies, they too received the disease.
According to the researchers, it was a rare occasion since many causes of Ebola were caused by eating infected meat. Fruit bats are part of a regular diet in rural west Africa, who either smoke, grill or stew the dish.
Fabian Leendertz, a disease ecologist at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, said that an infected fruit bat brought the disease into New Guinea. These bats travel far distances. While they claim that they do not have 100% evidence for their theory, they believe that the big colonies are connected, and it is possible one colony is carrying the virus.
The Human Rights Watch is calling for Burundi authorities to stop the crackdown against the government’s opposition, and to stop the unfair verdict of 48 individuals handed two years to life imprisonment for opposing the government. More than 70 people were tried for opposing the government, which left the defendants unable to prepare for their defence accordingly.
According to African Director of Human Rights Watch Daniele Bekele, the trial of the opposition party members was clearly unjust and unfair. He said that the Burundi government should using the justice system to their personal advantage and to advance their own interests.
Bekele added that the freedom of expression rights in Burundi is virtually non-existent, and this progressed through four years of the government slowly introducing the new laws. The escalating skirmishes between Government parties and opposition became severe, which began the harassment of opposition leaders by government forces.
The arrests of people, including those who were only jogging in the morning, are seen as convening to plot against the government. Most of the joggers were members of the government’s opposition party. Under suspicion of mutiny, 70 individuals were imprisoned.
However, despite the negative publicity, Burundi policemen continued to arrest the individuals tied with the opposition party. Defendants said they were accused of being rebels or traitors of Burundi.
Burundi’s government may arrest people who are jogging during the mornings at the side of the Bujumbura Hill. Most of these joggers are going uphill. Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza declared jogging illegal because it was perceived as a cover for subversion.
People who clump in groups while jogging may be conversing about political dissidence, and rebellion. Some joggers, who were members of the opposition party Movement for Solidarity and Democracy (MSD), are now spending five years to life imprisonment because of their early morning jogs.
Political analysts observe the irony of the situation as Nkurunziza is an avid fan of football and team games. The worst part of it is that Burundi’s own team will need to jog together to practice and build their strengths.
Analysts also view the law as illogical and lacking in specification. It has ambiguous descriptions regarding the activities of joggers and on what grounds can they be arrested.
In the past, morning jogs have become part of Burundi’s culture as preparation against militias hunting down civilians. To build their strength and to create conversation and plans, the runners conversed and planned in secret.
Authorities in Burundi had arrested the President of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa. The 66-year-old leading rights activist in Burundi received a charge for inciting disobedience and endangering internal and external state because of the remarks he made in a radio show.
The Human Rights Watch African director Daniel Bekele said that he was greatly concerned about the charges because it would harass Mbonimpa for his human rights work in Burundi.
Mbonimpa said a Burundian radio station Radio Publique Africaine on May 6 that Burundians “were being armed, given military uniforms and sent for military training in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.” However, the HRW is still unable to verify Mbonimpa’s claim.
He then received summons from Burundi authorities on May 7 and 12. He was questioned for his statements in both instances. He was arrested on May 15.
According to the Human Rights Watch, Mbonimpa must be released immediately.
Antoine Nzobandora, the lawyer representing Mbonimpa, said that Mbonimpa will be brought before a panel of judges and within a week, a judge may decide to grant him bail. He also said that once he is brought before the council of judges, he will prove Mbonimpa innocent.
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a New York Press Conference that the United Nations is urging the Government of Burundi to fight against political violence and growing restrictions on certain fundamental freedoms.
UN Political Affairs Under Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman said that the restrictions on political rights and freedoms were startling. Inter-ethnic fighting between the Hutu and Tutsi tribesmen have forced the restrictions on human rights. According to Stephane Dujarric, if no action is taken and human rights violations continue to happen, the young can be used for afflicting violence in different areas of the country.
Under Secretary-General Feltman said that they have reports that showed the violence was mainly initiated by the youth wing of the current ruling party (CNFDD-FDD), including arming and training the youth wing.
Dujarric said that in part of Burundi’s past, they trust the Government of Burundi to address thoroughly and promptly the ongoing political violence and human rights restrictions in the country. He said that the international community, not just the UN, is concerned over such developments.
He said that the country will take steps to protect political pluralism and the democracy by which its government had been found. Press and civil limitations on the freedoms of expression, of association and peaceful assembly and media and civil society organisations, shall be lifted by the Government.
A Burundi diplomat had been expelled from South Africa for collaborating with suspects who had raided a former Rwandan Army Chief General’s home. According to local news, the Rwandan Army Chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa’s home on March 4.
The Burundi government is currently reviewing information regarding South Africa’s decision before reacting to the situation.
Currently Burundi and South Africa have a diplomatic spat because of the said incident. Last week, South Africa had expelled three Rwandan diplomats and Burundi retaliated by expelling six South African diplomats.
According to an intelligence source in South Africa, the South African security services had tracked down the individuals responsible for the raid of the ex-Army Chief’s house and intelligence feed showed that the individuals were Rwandan intelligence personnel linked to the embassy.
Army Chief General Fausting Kayumba Nyamwasa had been the target of several assassination attempts. In 2010, he was shot in the stomach during the middle of the day and underwent surgery in a Johannesburg clinic. The gunmen wanted to ensure his death by emptying their guns on his stomach.
He had been an opposition figure against South African President Paul Kagame and had been critical of his government. He had gone into exile after leaving his position in the military due to his voracious assaults against Kagame’s government.