Civil society campaigns against political violence

Burundi will have presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2015. Political intolerance and violence is common in Burundi and the number of violent acts with political motive normally increase before the elections.

Teksti: Jenna Kettunen

Electoral violence before or during the elections is one of the most serious forms of electoral fraud.The reported modes of electoral violence in Burundi have been intentional assaults, torture, destruction of property and symbols of political parties, murder, rape, intimidation or rallying activities with songs, slogans and dances attacking the political opponent.There is at least one abuse case per a day reported in media.With a motive to guarantee Burundians´ right to genuine elections in 2015, the civil society actors have launched a joint campaign against political intolerance and violence.In the campaign the civil society will work on the ground and set up monitoring groups that document all the cases of political violence and identify their perpetrators.  This information will be shared with the media, partners and other stakeholders.The objective is to sensitize government and other stakeholders to condemn the acts of political intolerance and violence and dissociate from their authors. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to combat the impunity of the acts of political intolerance and violence.***Despite the signing of the cease fire agreements in 2004 and establishment of democratically elected institutions in 2005, security remains the biggest concern for Burundians.Pre- and post-electoral violence in 2010 led some politicians to boycott the elections and to flee the country. This has challenged the pluralist democratic process in Burundi. Thus, during the electoral campaigns political parties adopt illegal strategies to intimidate citizens and force party memberships.In some cases these abuses are perpetrated by strangers. In others by people identified as members of the League Imbonerakure, the youth wing affiliated to the ruling party CNDD-FDD. In some parts of the country, the Imbonerakure has replaced the police and judicial authorities and taken the rule of law into their own hands.As a justification for this some authorities have publicly mentioned that every citizen should contribute to safeguard the public safety. But Burundi is not in a war, hence, there is no need for citizens to seek the support of the individuals to ensure their safety.In addition, the security requires necessary means, including the use of weapons, while the civil population is supposed to be disarmed.***The biggest concern is the silence of some powerful authorities that cover the impunity of the youth and the negligence of security forces as well as the local government, which all should protect the citizens and enforce the law.Many Burundians fear that the above mentioned actions, if not controlled in time, can lead to genocide as was the case of the Interahamwe in Rwanda.Civil society considers that the recent history of Burundi has proved that the acts of political intolerance and violence can lead youth to killing, looting and rape on behalf of the powerful individuals or political parties.Without any doubt intimidation, kidnapping, murder, torture and other human rights violations are part of life in Burundi. Citizens are concerned about their safety while their efforts should focus on survival in extreme poverty.The documenting and reporting work done by the civil society is crucial especially after the President Nkurunziza signed the controversial Media Bill on the 4th of June in 2013. The fight for the right to free expression has to continue in Burundi. This blogtext has been written in cooperation with Vital Nshimirimana, the President of the Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile (FORSC). The writer works as Kepa’s Programme Advisor in Tanzania.