Accused of deviating from the goals set in their statutes, five local non-governmental organizations have been completely banned from working in Burundi by the Interior Minister.
The organizations are namely the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society (FORSC), the Forum for Awareness and Development (FOCODE), Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), the Association for Protection of the Human Rights and Detained persons (APRODH) and the Network of Honest Citizens (RCP).
The Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye said on 19 October that the above organizations are completely banned from operating in Burundi after repeated warnings that they have deviated from their missions. “These associations are rather busy tarnishing the image of their country and stirring up hatred and division between Burundians,” said the minister.
For Armel Niyongere, the chairman of ACAT, the suspension of these associations means nothing as they will continue their struggle to fight against impunity. “We are not surprised to see that these days Burundi government has desperately taken measures to withdraw from the ICC, suspend the cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, disbar some lawyers, etc”, he said.
For him, all this is linked to their commitment to fight against impunity, the monitoring of human rights violations, advocacy at the international level, the reports that they publish. “This measure cannot prevent us from performing our duties, it rather makes us stronger”, he said.
The same view is shared with Vital Nshimirimana, the chairman of FORSC. “It is regrettable to hear that the Minister has taken such a measure while he was supposed to work in accordance with the law. The measure is baseless. In this context, the minister was not right to suspend any association without the will of its members”, he says.
Nshimirimana says they are going to appeal to the international court until the decision is reviewed. “We exhort the population to intervene for their benefit as they are the ones that are first targeted”, he says.
This complete ban comes after the decision to temporarily suspend the above mentioned organizations on 23 November 2015.
While some organizations are completely suspended, others are temporarily suspended
Beside these five associations completely banned from working on the Burundian territory, there are five others which have been provisionally suspended this 24 October by the interior ministry. Those associations include the Burundian coalition of Civil Society for the Electoral Monitoring- COSOME, the Burundian coalition for the ICC-CB-CPI, the Burundian Union of Journalists-UBJ, the Human Rights Association-Ligue Iteka and SOS-Torture Burundi. The Interior Minister says their activities are likely to disrupt order and State security.
Alexandre Niyungeko, the chairman of UBJ says they have not been surprised at all. “Since the last days, Burundian journalists have been ill-treated. UBJ has many times stood up to defend its members. Some of them have been abducted and arrested while others mistreated. UBJ is a victim of its activities”, he says. For Niyungeko, the Interior Minister should have directly and definitively suspended them. “The Interior Minister should not prevent UBJ from achieving its goals!” he says.