Diène Commission vs Bujumbura : Dialogue of the deaf

Human rights violations, 2020 elections, dwindling of political space … all these topics were discussed at the Human Rights Council. The members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi did not go in for subtleties. Bujumbura, as usual, speaks about the plot to destabilize its institutions.

Commission of Inquiry on Burundi did not go in for subtleties. Bujumbura, as usual, speaks about the plot to destabilize its institutions.

“The human rights situation remains very worrying”. This is what the three UN experts, Doudou Diène, Françoise Hampson and Lucy Asuagborn said on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, during the interactive debate with the Human Rights Council.

According to them, the government has shown no willingness to fight against impunity in the country and didn’t want to engage in an inclusive dialogue to find a way out of the political crisis that broke out in 2015.

“This favors the perpetuation of violations of human rights.” As the main perpetrators of “these serious violations and international crimes since 2015”, the Commission of Inquiry points an accusing finger to some members of the security forces and the youth wing who hold positions of responsibility in the institutions. “The Imbonerakure (youth wing of the ruling party) are everywhere and continually monitor the population. They are directly involved in the majority of human rights violations documented by the commission “.

For UN experts, the human rights situation remains worrying

The commission also denounces the financial contributions requested from the population while 1/3 of Burundians needs humanitarian aid. It is concerned about the government’s decision to use households to finance the 2020 elections. “These contributions regularly take the form of racketeering or extortion, because they are accompanied by violence or else condition the access to health care and education.” These UN experts also denounce various financial or in kind contributions to the construction of the ruling party’s offices.

Concerning the 2020 elections, those experts find that they can have a big impact on the human rights situation in the next few months. For them, the respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, political pluralism and the independence of the media are essential for the organization of elections that are truly democratic, free and credible in 2020.

With that, the commission undertook to keep an eye on the decisions taken by the Burundian authorities as well as all developments on the ground to identify the possible risks of human rights violations. “The Commission of Inquiry is more necessary than ever because it is the only international mechanism capable of conducting independent, rigorous and impartial investigations and establishing the responsibility for the acts committed”.

Bujumbura speaks of a corrupt commission

Rénovat Tabu, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Burundi in Geneva, accuses the commission of being untruthful, defamatory, insulting and typologically political. “Burundi got the oral report presented by this commission and rejects it publicly. It has no added value. Its content is false and defamatory.”

Rénovat Tabu : ” Burundi rejects this report publicly. It has no added value. Its content is false and defamatory. “

According to Ambassador Tabu, Doudou Diène, President of this commission arrogates to himself the right to be the spokesman for the UN and the Burundian political opposition by meddling in the internal affairs of Burundi with its lessons and warnings. For him, it is nowhere specified that the commission will have an eternal mandate to investigate the entire national life of Burundi.

To this dark picture depicted by the Commission of Inquiry, Rénovat Tabu opposes a “peaceful political space”, highlighting the approval of the party of Agathon Rwasa, the National Congress for Liberty (CNL). “Burundi informs that it is already moving towards the 2020 elections and that all the necessary instruments are well thought out”. He called on the international community to refrain from any action that would undermine the success of these major election events. For Rénovat Tabu, Doudou Diène and his mentors will be held accountable in case anything happens in Burundi

What Ambassador Tabu said made Coly Seck, President of the Human Rights Council give him a warning:”I would like to remind the ambassador of Burundi that inappropriate language is not tolerated within the Human Rights Council”.

Last October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet asked Burundi Ambassador to the UN, Albert Shingiro, to make an apology to Doudou Diène and other members of the commission, as well as the Human Rights Council, following threats to prosecute the members of the commission. It was during the meeting of the 3rd commission of the General Assembly in New York.

However, this did not prevent Albert Shingiro from making a similar statement in a tweet dating from Marcz 13: “The misleading, defamatory and deceptive statements of Doudou Diène on the Burundian people and their leaders doubled with the intention of destabilizing our country will not remain unpunished.”


Tatien Sibomana “A very watchful eye should be kept on Burundi.”

For this political actor of the opposition, the commission chaired by Diene depicts a situation corresponding to the reality. Rwasa’s new party was denied to organize the opening ceremonies of its national office under a false pretext of insecurity, “which was not convincing as an argument”. The day the authorization was given; this did not prevent police station chiefs from unlawfully stopping the cars carrying CNL members.

For this opponent, a vigilant eye should be kept on Burundi to avoid the experience of the elections of 2015. He argues that there is no preparation in the sense of inclusiveness, appeasement, security for credible elections.
Mr Sibomana calls for the resumption of the dialogue, which would be closed as soon as possible to reach a consensual vision on how to organize these elections.

“We must agree on the essential prerequisites including the security and political environment, i.e. the easing of the political space and the humanitarian aspect of these elections”. According to him, there are refugees, particularly women and politicians who would like to participate in the process.
Tatien Sibomana also focuses on the election observation. International organizations, the civil society, legal organizations, political party agents must have a privileged place in these elections to ensure that they are transparent, democratic and inclusive.

Lambert Nigarura: “The upcoming elections are being prepared in tense situation.”

For this human rights activist, the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi is in line with the sad reality of the persistence of serious human rights violations in Burundi. “Kidnappings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests of political opponents and targeted assassinations have become alarming.”

Mr Nigarura says it is no longer a secret that the period nearing the elections is very tense and that violations of human rights will undoubtedly increase with a high risk of confrontation. Lambert Nigarura deplores the closure of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at a time when human rights are systematically violated and especially that no other mechanism for the protection of human rights is in place. “As CNIDH has become a simple politicized instrument, the consequences will be numerous and it is the Burundian people who are still losers”.

Hamza Venant Burikukiye : ” The political space is free.”
“It’s a lie. There is no hunt for political parties of the opposition,” says Hamza Venant Burikukiye, spokesman for Pisc Burundi, a local civil society. For him, the political space is open to all political parties recognized by law as evidenced by the approval of a new political party, the National Congress for Liberty (CNL). For this civil society activist, Doudou Diène’s report contains broad generalizations. The human rights violations mentioned in this report are not based on any proof. “These are baseless allegations. The aim is to distract and manipulate Burundians”.



Kefa Nibizi: “No need worrying.”

For Kefa Nibizi, chairman of FRODEBU Nyakuri party, there is no reason to worry about the 2020 elections because all the political parties ran their campaign in the 2018 constitutional referendum without any problem. For him, this gives hope that even the next elections will be held smoothly.
Mr. Nibizi also finds it normal that there be observers. As for their accreditations, this politician emphasizes that this question belongs to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).


Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana