Burundi Bishops’ Concerns about 2020 Elections Infuriate Government, Calls for Defrocking

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The concerns, which the Catholic Bishops of Burundi have raised regarding the general elections in their country slated to take place next year, have infuriated the government, with some high-ranking officials calling for the Bishops to be deprived of their ecclesiastical status, various international media have reported.

“Some Bishops deserve to be defrocked because it has become common at the eve of every election, they will always spit out their venom of hatred through hate messages,” the presidential spokesman in Burundi, Willy Nyamitwe Twitted, reacting to the Bishops’ message read out in Churches across the country on Sunday, September 22.

Nyamitwe, also described by Strategic Intelligence as “the most public face of the government” of Burundi, questioned the moral authority of the Catholic bishops saying, “they (Catholic Bishops) are no longer models of piety.”

In their statement, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi expressed concerns that people with differing viewpoints from those of government were targeted and persecuted, there are murders with political motives, and some political parties were suffering suffocation.

“There is a bad spirit of stifling and violating certain political parties and persecuting their members,” the Bishops stated and added, “these criminal acts are perpetrated against those who hold opinions different from those of the Government.”


“In Burundi, we have to listen only to the voice of the Government and the ruling party,” a source familiar with the affairs of the Bishops’ conference confirmed the Bishops’ concerns to ACI Africa Monday on condition of anonymity and added, “Some national media and international like BBC and VOA have been suspended (from Burundi).”

With some media banned from broadcasting in Burundi, “the Catholic Church remains the unique institution in the country which can criticize crimes, injustice, the violation of human beings,” the source told ACI Africa.

In their collective statement dated September 13, Bishops in Burundi also expressed concern about the role young people are given in their country’s ruling party saying, “Young people affiliated to this party seem to replace the security services. Such a practice creates disorder that could disrupt the climate conducive to the electoral process.”

Reacting to these concerns, the Secretary General of Burundi’s Party, Evariste Ndayishimiye accused the Catholic Bishops of Burundi of teaching hatred to the faithful and that this is shameful.

“The bishops are trying to push opposition activists to attack our party (CNDD-FDD) first” Ndayishimiye said in reference to the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy- Forces for the Defense of Democracy.

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“The Church is accused to be the same side with the parties of the opposition and all enemies of Burundi,” the source privy to the functioning of the Bishops’ conference stated and lamented that the Burundi government would like that Church leaders “only preach the Word of God in the church without any reference to social and political questions.”

In 2015, the landlocked country where East and Central Africa converge experienced a political crisis when the eventually successful bid of the President, Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third-term was resisted by opposition supporters, provoking protests.

Last year, Burundians took part in a referendum. The results allowed President Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034, although he has been quoted as saying he does not intent to seek re-election next year.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.