Burundi. In a referendum on May 17, amendments to the
Constitution were passed that, among other things,
strengthen the president's power and extend his term of
office. The vote was preceded by strong pressure on the
opposition, which was criticized by several countries and
human rights groups. Of the electorate, 73% supported the
proposal to extend the president's term of office from five
to seven years from 2020. Theoretically, current president
Pierre Nkurunziza can stand again and sit until 2034. Barely
a fifth voted no. The turnout was over 90%. The government
threatened to call for a boycott of up to three years in
prison, as the exile-based opposition coalition CNARED did.
Human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch stated that
the security forces and the ruling party CNDD-FDD's youth
union Imbonerakure pursued opposition and committed murder.
In April, the president reformed his government. Among
other things, he replaced Foreign Minister Alain-Aimé
Nyamitwe, who was appointed in 2015 after the failed coup
attempt and who led the attempts to counter the outside
world's criticism of the opposition against the opposition.
New Foreign Minister Ezéchiel Nibigira was former leader of
Just before the referendum, local broadcasting rights
were also revoked for the British BBC and US VOA for six
months, citing that they violated the media laws. Groups
such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized the
Countryaah.com, Nkurunziza unexpectedly announced in June that he did not
intend to remain after 2020. The EU and the United States
welcomed the message and urged the government to continue to
improve the opportunities for political debate.
The new constitution prevents coalitions between
independent candidates, which stops the opposition group
Amizero y'Abarundi. In September, the FNL Amizero y'Abarundi
(National Front of Liberty - Hope for the Burundians) was
formed as a counterpart. It is led by former rebel leader
Agathon Rwasa, who is the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
However, the party had not been registered in mid-November.
The regional organization of the EAC, Tanzania's former
President Benjamin Mkapa, conducted several mediation rounds
between the ruling party, its allies and the opposition
More than 130 foreign NGOs were told that their work
permit was withdrawn from October 1 until they
re-registered. They were given a period of three months to
request new permits. Among the requirements, it was noted
that they must deposit one third of their assets in the
central bank and respect quotas between the hutu (60%) and
Tutsi (40%) ethnic groups among employees. Amnesty
International considered that there was an infringement on
freedom of association.
A special UN group investigating suspected crimes in
Burundi since 2015 reiterated its concern for the
development in September and maintained that the human
rights situation had not improved. Extrajudicial executions,
arbitrary imprisonment, torture and rape occurred. Criticism
was directed at the difficulty of the opposition to work and
increased poverty. Burundi has criticized the process and
threatened to prosecute the three UN experts. UN Human
Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet criticized Burundi's
lack of cooperation.
UN Refugee Agency UNHCR helped about 378,000 Burundian
refugees, of which just over half in neighboring Tanzania.
In November, almost a third of the funding had been covered.