The East African Election Observer Mission in its report says Burundi elections which have been won by the incumbent President, Pierre Nkurunziza, were not free or fair, not credible, not peaceful and not transparent.
Following the invitation of the National Independent Electoral Commission of Burundi (CENI), the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), Amb Richard Sezibera, appointed and deployed an Election Observer Mission to the 21st July Presidential Elections in the Republic of Burundi.
The EAC Election Observer Mission was led by Hon. Abubakar Zein, a Member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), and comprises 25 members drawn from the EAC Partner States namely; Kenya, Rwanda, United Republic of Tanzania, and Uganda.
The EAC Election Observer Mission was deployed on 20th July 2015 to various Provinces of Burundi to observe the polling and counting processes.
The mission, as we are told, conducted its assessment in an impartial manner based on the EAC Principles for Election Observation and Evaluation, the African Union Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance, as well as the Constitutional and Legal Framework governing the conduct of Elections in the Republic of Burundi.
This is what it found:
The leaked document of which The Insider got a copy (thanks to highly place regional sources), says the general political context of the 2015 presidential election was characterized by the controversy surrounding the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidature for a third term.
“This was viewed by some actors as a violation of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement of 2000 and the Constitution 2005 of Burundi…the incumbent’s nomination on 25 April 2015 sparked demonstrations in Bujumbura and some parts of the country which turned violent.”
It says the mass protests and an attempted coup d’état on 13 May 2015 resulted in scores of deaths and deterioration of the human rights situation in the country as well as an influx of refugees estimated to be around 150,000.
It says the appointment of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in a bid to resolve the political stalemate never amounted to anything as the political Dialogue was postponed on the eve of the election without consensus.
The report says “insecurity, the candidature of the incumbent president, return of refugees, media freedoms and civil liberties, perpetuated uncertainty and fear” forced opposition candidates to withdraw from the presidential race.
Legal and Institutional Framework
“Whilst the framework is adequate for the conduct of democratic elections in Burundi, there have been violations of the fundamental civil and political rights that limited citizen participation in the electoral process,” the report notes.
It cites the closure of several private media outlets, Radio and Television REMA, Radio and Television Renaissance, Radio Isanganiro, Radio Publique Africaine (RPA), and Radio Sans Frontiere Bonesha FM, “thereby impacting on the rights to freedom of expression”.
The report says the closure of media outlets “constrained the options for voters to be adequately informed on the electoral process and make informed choices”.
“Similarly, this denied the citizens an alternative source of information that is critical in making an informed choice in the election.”
The report says the fleeing to exile of Constitutional Court Vice President, Sylvere Nimpagaritse, and one Commissioner from the Electoral Commission as well as withdrawal of members of the Catholic Church from the CENI structures in May 2015, “impacted on public’s perception on the credibility of CENI” that held elections and of the Court that validated Nkurunziza’s candidature.
Opposition restrained from campaigns
The report says the campaign environment was “generally tense and characterized by fear and uncertainty” for the case of opposition candidates.
“The political stalemate surrounding the candidature of the incumbent president, concerns relating to the security of candidates and their supporters and the subsequent postponement of polls impacted the electoral process and implementation of the campaign calendar.”
While Nkurunziza campaigned freely across the country, some candidates to the presidential election participated in the political dialogue aimed at resolving the political stalemate.
“This impacted on the candidates’ ability to solicit for votes and for the voters to make informed decisions on leaders of their choice,” writes EAC team.
The report says the Presidential election was held against a backdrop of a tense and violent pre-election period in Provinces of Cibitoke, Bubanza and Kayanza.
On the eve of the polls, there were incidents of shooting, grenade attack and subsequent reports of three deaths in Bujumbura which heightened fear among the population.
It was also noted that within Bujumbura city, the following areas were restive with unpredictable security environment: Cibitoke, Mutakura, Buterere, Ngagara, Jabe, Nyakabiga, Kanyosha and Musaga.
“The Mission did not deploy observers in the above captioned regions as a result of the unpredictable security environment”—which means results from those areas are questionable-
The EAC observers visited a total of 80 polling stations and in Bujumbura, anxiety over insecurity and late arrival of election materials impacted on the timely opening of the polls.
“Apart from the CNDD-FDD party agents who were present in all stations visited by the EAC Observers, there was a notable absence of party agents of most opposition political parties despite the obligatory requirement by Electoral Code.”
The EAC observers noted that the voter turnout was generally ranged from low to average in most polling stations visited not “successful” as the regime insinuated.
The EAC Election Observation Mission recommended an all-inclusive and honest dialogue in order to find a sustainable solution to the political impasse prevailing in Burundi.
“Undertake measures to remove restrictions on media freedom and allow private media houses to operate, Parliament pursues legal and institutional reforms aimed at safeguarding the independence of the CENI and the Judiciary etc.”
“The electoral process fell short of the principles and standards for holding free, fair, peaceful, transparent and credible elections as stipulated in various international, continental as well as the EAC Principles of Election Observation and Evaluation.”
The team was supposed to release the report yesterday July 23, 2015 at Royal Palace Hotel, Bujumbura with a press conference but this never happened.
“The Mission intends to share its preliminary findings of the Elections on 23rd July 2015 and provide its final Report through the established channels,” this what EAC secretariat had said.
As we have learnt the findings of the report contradicts what EAC chairman and Tanzanian president, Jakaya Kikwete, on one hand and Nkurunziza, on the other, expected.
The team was pressurised not to release the report at first but with the intervention of journalists who tweeted its contents, the team finally released the report.