Burundi: Vital role of the Commission of Inquiry in prompting meaningful human rights progress

In a civil society call made public ahead of the UN Human Rights Council’s 45th session (14 September-6 October 2020), DefendDefenders and more than 40 partners urge States to support the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. 

The signatories highlight that the CoI remains the only independent mechanism mandated to document human rights vio­la­tions and abuses, monitor, and publicly report on the situation in the country, and that chan­ging political realities do not amount to meaningful human rights progress. 

The civil society letter outlines the grave human rights violations committed in Burundi since 2015 in a context of near-com­plete im­pu­nity. Despite calls on the new Burundian President, Éva­riste Nda­yishimiye, to de­mon­strate his openness to reconciliation by releasing all detained human rights defenders (HRDs), Ger­main Ru­kuki, Nestor Nibitan­ga, and Iwacu reporters Egide Hare­rima­na, Christine Ka­mi­kazi, Te­rence Mpo­zenzi and Agnès Ndi­ru­busa, re­main in detention. 

As Burundi is in a period of potential transition, following the 20 May 2020 presidential, legislative and local elections and after the pass­ing of former President Nkurunziza, there are signs of promise as well as of significant concern, the signatories write. Tangible progress is yet to be registered regarding priority areas for action, including the fight against poverty, the fight against impunity, reform of the judicial system, the re-opening of the democratic space (including a safe and enabling environment for civil society), and cooperation with international and African human rights mechanisms. 

At this time, as uncertainty remains, the best chance to achieve meaningful change is through the renewal of the mandate of the CoI, as well as the Burundian authorities re­initiating dialogue with the international community, the letter concludes – and the best way to do this is by making measurable progress on key indicators. 

Read the full letter in English or French (version française). 

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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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