Politics

Voters’ registration full of incidents

Burundians have registered for both the constitutional referendum and 2020 elections. Some did so for fear of reprisals.

Citizens register for the upcoming constitutional referendum and 2020 elections.

Citizens register for the upcoming constitutional referendum and 2020 elections.

In its mid-term review, the National Independent Electoral Commission-CENI has announced that more than 2,500,000 i.e. 56% of the expected number of voters have already registered after 5 days of registration. The commission expects more than 4 million Burundians to register.

Such figures could be explained by the sensitization campaigns by the administrative officials, which sometimes provoke fury. The government had given clear directives. All voters must register to participate in the constitutional referendum.

In an internal statement, the ruling party has warned the party’s authorities across the country: this campaign will serve as a test to gauge their ability to sensitize the population to this process. The secretary general of the ruling CNDD-FDD called for general mobilization and assured that a report will be prepared in all localities of the country. The objective is to detect any failure and take necessary measures.

Fear

Is it pressure? Some government officials quickly jumped from persuasion to intimidation. Schools, market or road in some areas were closed. Taxi-bike tires were punctured to force drivers to register. Speeches inciting fear of reprisals were delivered.

At the beginning of the registration process, there have been accusations of sabotage of the process by CENI agents almost everywhere. Arrests by the police followed. A badly completed form, a person who has registered outside their home and place of residence … were followed by arrests deemed arbitrary.

In neighborhoods where protests against the candidacy of the current president back in 2015 were held, it’s a different reality. Some residents of the capital are reluctant to register on the spot, for fear of being taxed to support the power in place. They prefer to register elsewhere.

In any case, whether on the side of the ruling party as its allies, or the opposition camp like that of the coalition Amizero y’abarundi, the instructions are clear. Citizens have to register.

“This registration is also for the 2020 elections,” CENI warns.


>>Reactions

Pancrace-Cimpaye-300x219CNARED “calls for the boycott of this election”

The opposition platform in exile says the majority of the Burundian people have shown little enthusiasm for registering for the constitutional referendum “contrary to the false statements by the electoral commission.” CNARED Spokesman, Pancrace Cimpaye denounces a campaign to register by force. He assures that the adoption of the new constitution will involve extrajudicial executions and arbitrary imprisonment and a new wave of refugees. This opponent in exile condemns the constitutional referendum which he describes as a masquerade. He speaks of the tracing of a path leading to a civil war and calls for a boycott of the poll. The opposition coalition reiterates its demand to the international community to take drastic sanctions against Bujumbura.

Nancy-Ninette-Mutoni-250x300CNDD-FDD: “No effect on a united and determined people”

The ruling party condemns all those who spread rumors to distract and frighten people. “These are again vain attempts, without effect in the face of people who are united and determined to achieve the real independence of their nation.”

The Commissioner for Information and Communication within the ruling party is also satisfied with the registration rate. For Nancy Ninette Mutoni, this confirms that this referendum process emanates from the people, a will expressed during the various inter-Burundian dialogue sessions. She calls on those who have not yet registered to do so on time, to allow CENI to continue with other steps of this process. “This will lead us to real independence.”

Agathon RwasaAgathon Rwasa: “This gives rise to barbarism”

The first Deputy-President of the National Assembly denounces the arbitrary arrests of census agents for reasons that are often far-fetched. Agathon Rwasa also deplores the fact that some are abused by the Imbonerakure -youth wing of the ruling party just because they have not registered yet. “Why blaming people when voting is not mandatory?”

This opponent believes that instead of resorting to persecution, it is necessary to explain the values of the vote. “As for administrative officials who substitute for the police, justice, it’s mere barbarism.”

Gaston SindimwoGaston Sindimwo: “Registration is voluntary”

For the first Deputy-President of Burundi, registering for vote is voluntary. According to Gaston Sindimwo, no sanction is provided for by the electoral code for those who do not want to register. “The penalty is that any citizen imposes on themselves because they deprive themselves of exercising their civic right. For him, Burundi is so far a model of freedom, unlike other Western countries such as Belgium where voting is mandatory. As for the administrative officials accused of mobilizing people by incitement to fear, the Deputy President reassures that every effort has been made to deter such isolated incidents.

Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

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