“We refuse to be confused with any competing political party”: Bishops in Burundi

Members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi (CECAB).
Credit: SOS Media Burundi

Members of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi (CECAB) have, in a collective statement, contested the attempt to relate them with political parties amid controversies around the recent general election and clarify that their forum did not file a case in the country's Constitutional Court.

“We refuse to be confused with any competing political party or individual,” the members of CECAB have said in their collective statement, explaining, “There was no reason for us to complain because, in the election in question, the role of the observer was to note and record only irregularities and facts observed with his or her own eyes, as stipulated in the Code of Conduct for Observers.”

In their collective statement dated May 26, the Catholic Bishops in Burundi denounced the May 20 general elections alleging “many irregularities”, which they said ranged from events before, during and after the actual casting of ballots, acts that put to question the outcome of the poll that was announced Monday, May 25.

The Electoral Commission of Burundi declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, a candidate of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the winner of the presidential election, having received 68.72 percent of the votes, more than double the opposition’s leader, Agathon Rwasa, who garnered 24.19 percent.

Mr. Rwasa described the process “an electoral masquerade” and filed a case against the results at the Constitutional Court.

“The Episcopal Conference has never appealed to the Constitutional Court,” the Bishops have underscored in their June 5 statement, adding in reference to their collective forum, “All it has done has been to report to the public on its observation work for which it had received accreditation.”

In their statement signed by CECAB Chairman, Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye, the Bishops bemoan, “We deplore the fact that the Episcopal Conference was wrongly considered as a complainant, which sows confusion in the minds of the population.”

On June 4, Burundi's Constitutional Court upheld the results of May 20 presidential election and rejected the complaints filed by opposition leader arguing that Mr. Rwasa's National Freedom Council (CNL) failed to provide sufficient proof of its claims.

The Bishops say they were “surprised” to be cited during the Constitutional Court ruling.

“We, members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Burundi, after having heard on 04 June 2020 the proclamation of the final and official results of the election of the President of the Republic, made by the President of the Constitutional Court were very surprised to hear the Constitutional Court cite the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Burundi as if it were a plaintiff with regard to this election,” they lament. 

The Bishops add, “The President of the Constitutional Court himself insistently and urgently requested the illustrative elements of the irregularities, which the Episcopal Conference had condemned in its press release of 26 May 2020.”

They further disclose that as a forum of Catholic Bishops, they had, in a “confidential note” reached out to the President of Constitutional Court considering that their “complete election observation report is intended in principle for the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI)” as provided by the "Code of Conduct for Domestic and Foreign Observers for the 2020 Electoral Process.”

Following the June 4 Constitutional Court ruling upholding the election of Evariste Ndayishimiye, the Catholic Bishops have moved on to congratulate him as the President-elect and assured him of their prayers for "the realization and success of his noble mission."

They have also invited all Burundians to “love the truth, justice and to be artisans of peace and unity in our beloved homeland.”

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
[email protected]