, 16 May, 2020 / 2:10 AM
Members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi (CECAB) are concerned about the election-related violence in their country and have called on the parties behind the conflict to look beyond the election event that is expected to take place May 20.
“We will continue to live together even after the elections,” the Bishops in Burundi said early this week, expressing their concerns about violence in their country ahead of the elections.
“We are particularly concerned about intolerance that led to confrontations, killings and injuries without any intervention,” the Bishops lamented in their collective message dated May 11 and signed by CECAB Chairman, Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye.
“One person was found dead four days after he was reported missing,” the Bishops recalled adding that there are cases of abduction, persecution and destabilization reported in some localities.
They went on to express their regrets over “the provocations, the manhunt and the persecutions recorded in certain places, while those who should investigate and punish the guilty find it difficult to carry out this role impartially.”
According to a spokesman of Burundi’s Public Security minister, four provinces (Kirundo, Ngozi, Kayanza, Bujumbura and Gitega) witnessed violence during the ongoing campaigns.
Burundi’s Attorney General said that one person was killed and two injured during the confrontation between political party supporters in Kirundo province located in the northern part of the country.
In their collective statement, the Catholic Bishops appealed to politicians and their followers to respect human rights saying, “Candidates in the electoral campaign must abide by the electoral code and the code of conduct signed by political parties. All candidates and supporters must respect human rights.”
They called on all Burundians to be ready to “accept the results of the elections and ensure that no one causes instability or war.”
They also urged those responsible for the electoral process and other authorities to remain vigilant and ensure freedom for all.
“We call everyone, including journalists, to work to ensure that the vote is held in a peaceful manner, and to avoid incitement to hatred,” the Bishops implored.
Burundi has been plagued by unrest since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid for a disputed third term. However, in June 2018, President Nkurunziza who has headed the East African nation since 2005 announced that he would not seek another term.
The May 20 poll will see Burundians elect a new President, members of parliament, and members of the district council.
There are seven presidential candidates, with the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s General Evariste Ndayishimiye presented on election posters as the “heir” of President Pierre Nkurunziza. His main opponent is the historic leader of the former Hutu rebel FNL and candidate of the National Council for Liberty (CNL) party, Agathon Rwasa.
According to a decree signed by President Pierre Nkurunziza, the campaign period, which began on April 27, is expected to end Sunday, May 17.
With the elections to take place amid COVID-19 crisis, the Catholic Bishops in the country have called on the people of God “remain committed to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by respecting protective measures for themselves and for others.”
On May 12, the government of Burundi ordered that four officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) leave the country by Friday, May 15, a move that the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention has described as “unfortunate.”
The country has reported 15 cases of COVID-19 including seven recoveries and one death.
In their May 11 statement, the Catholic Bishops stated in conclusion, “We ask everyone: candidates for the elections, their supporters, members of CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission), public authorities, those responsible for justice, law enforcement and security, as well as Burundians, to maintain the hope and will that these elections take place in safety and peacefully.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa