Burundi: Extend CoI mandate for a further year

In an open letter published ahead of the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC42), a group of Burundian, African, and international civil society organisations join DefendDefenders in calling on States to support a resolution extending the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi for a further year, until September 2020.

The work conducted by the CoI, which will present its latest report at HRC42, provides critical oversight of the human rights situation in Bu­run­di, the signatories write. The CoI has documented violations of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Inde­pen­dent and critical voices, including civil society members, human rights de­fenders (HRDs), and jour­nalists, have been particularly targeted.

The pre-electoral context is likely to escalate political tensions and may lead to a subsequent rise in human rights violations. The signatories present a number of arguments that justify the renewal of the CoI’s mandate, including: (a) ensuring continued scrutiny of the human rights situation in Burundi; (b) providing the CoI and its secretariat with the time they need to complete their work; (c) ensuring consistency of action and follow-up on previous Council resolutions; (d) making clear that obstructionism and attacks against the UN are not rewarded; and (e) avoiding a monitoring gap ahead of the 2020 election, as the limited civic and democratic space in the country and the intimidation exercised by government forces, the ruling party, and members of the Imbo­ne­ra­kure hamper the pros­pects for a free and fair election.

We also suggest ways of enhancing attention to Burundi ahead of the 2020 election, including through reporting with a specific focus on elections and risk factors of human rights violations and abuses and an “enhanced interactive dialogue” at the Council’s 43rd session (February-March 2020).


Read the full letter in English.

Lire la lettre en français.


Human Rights Defender of the Month: Anny Kapenga

As a young student, Anny Kapenga used to cringe at the cult-like worship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the then Zaire’s President. By then, in the early 1990s, Zaire was still under one party rule, and calls were increasing for Mobutu to open political space to allow other parties to operate. In the meantime, however, all Zairians were expected to show affection for Mobutu wherever they gathered in public.

Students across Zaire’s schools were required to sing and dance adoringly before his (Mobutu)’s portrait every morning before they went to class, and all school scholastic materials were emblemed with his portrait. A young Anny never really appreciated the obsession:


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