400 Burundians detained, beaten by militia-UN


Burundi army on the streets


Civil unrest continued in areas of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, after current President Pierre Nkurunziza was nominated by the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party as their candidate for upcoming presidential elections, the United Nations relief arm reported today.

To date, a total of seven deaths, including two police officers, have been reported, though OCHA notes that outside of the capital, the situation has remained relatively calm, although many shops and schools remained closed.

Among recent developments is a communications clampdown, under which platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp having been blocked by authorities, and Radio Publique Africaine shut down.

Humanitarian actors are concerned that a media and communications blackout could serve to fuel rumours and further fan an already high level of anxiety among the population.

In the provinces of Gitega and Muramvya in central Burundi and Rumonge in the country’s South, students were reported to be leaving secondary schools because of security concerns, although no incidents have been reported.

Education Minister Rose Gahiro on Tuesday tried to reassure students, and appealed for them to remain in school.

In one positive development, human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was released from detention on Tuesday.

The interagency humanitarian contingency plan for elections in Burundi was presented to donors and partners in Nairobi, urgently requesting $11.6 million for priority preparedness and response to the needs of up to 50,000 people who could be affected in the first eight weeks after elections.

The UNHCR, in regular updates released on the situation, has also been reporting people fleeing over the border to Rwanda, with nearly 21,000 Burundians, mostly women and children, having arrived this month, citing intimidation and threats of violence linked to the upcoming elections.

“The reported use of live ammunition by intelligence and security forces during protests is particularly alarming and we urge the authorities to ensure that international standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, are fully respected,” said spokesman for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Rupert Colville today.

Mr. Colville noted that hundreds of people have also been detained since demonstrations began on April 26; more than 400 individuals are being held in extremely overcrowded conditions, with detainees having to sleep standing up.

“Detainees have also been beaten, particularly on their feet and buttocks, with some of those released having trouble walking due to the beating,” he told a press briefing in Geneva.

“With the electoral campaign due to officially begin in just nine days, we call on the authorities to ensure the space necessary for the conduct of free and fair elections,” he said.

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