2020 elections :”Match without referee?”

With voters’ lists not posted, voters without voting cards, the opposition “sidelined” in several polling stations, political activists in prison and others in hiding, etc, the National electoral commission  is accused of failing to fulfill its mission. For its part, it explains that the process is properly carried out.

CNL activists in Bururi province attending a meeting.

“In Mugamba commune, we have no member in all the polling stations,” says a representative of the opposition party National Congress for Liberty (CNL) in this commune of Bururi province.
“What is surprising is that some candidates of the ruling CNDD-FDD party in the municipal elections are members or presidents of the polling stations. It is incomprehensible and contrary to the law”.

The people of Mugamba give the example of Coma area. “The director of Tora high school called Polycarpe is the president of the polling station where he is a candidate. On Mwumba hill, Rémy Ndayubahe, Technical advisor in charge of the development of the commune, is also a member of the polling station where he is a candidate “.

According to the Inyankamugayo (members of CNL party) from Mugamba commune, this is also the same in Dongeruzi, Kirinzi localities and elsewhere. They fear that “the election might be rigged.”

The crux of the matter: Article 40

There are similar lamentations in Bururi commune. “Of the 139 polling stations, we have no agents. And yet, we had sent names to the communal electoral commission. This does not bode well. ”

Article 40 of the Electoral Code stipulates that “an electoral office is composed of a president and four members designated by the Independent Municipal Electoral Commission from among the voters registered within the said office in the respect of political, ethnic and gender balances.”

That situation raises the question whether “the CENI belongs to the ruling CNDD-FDD only.” In 57 polling stations, says a CNL official in Vyanda commune, CNL member agents are only present in 9 polling stations.

“We wrote a letter to the CECI and copied in the Bururi Provincial Electoral commission. We have got no answer so far. ”

He asks when they will be restored to their rights, especially as the elections are approaching.

For them, it is undoubtedly a trick prepared in advance. “Out of 370 polling station agents planned in Rutovu commune, we have 37 when we should have had 74. It is difficult to trust these CNDD-FDD activists who are in the majority at the polling stations. ”

“It’s a match without a referee!”

In Rumonge southern province, too, there are the same complaints. “There is an almost total exclusion,” says an official of CNL party in this province.

“In Muhuta commune, there isn’t a single CNL member at 108 polling stations. In Bugarama commune, there are 290 members of the polling stations, but the CNL has 33 members. Out of 1670 members who will be taking part in 334 polling stations, CNL party has only 30 agents”.
In Burambi commune where there are 96 polling stations, CNL has only 10 members out of 480. In Buyengero commune, the CNL has 63 members out of 470 people.

“Basically, the percentage of Inyankamugayo in the polling stations varies between 0 and 13%.”
Opposition activists also castigate the non-display of electoral lists. However, “the law is clear about this. They must be posted in the districts. But, so far, this has not yet been done,” said a CNL representative in Songa commune in Bururi southern province.

“For example, people have registered on the hills of Kivubu and Muyinya in Rutovu commune while they are from Buraza commune in Gitega province and vice versa. If they were displayed, the electoral lists could clarify all this. The National Independent Electoral Commission turned a blind eye to that. ”

Getting voters’ cards was also a headache. “When voters were enrolled in 2018, many people registered in Bujumbura. Afterwards, they made a transfer to be able to vote in their localities of origin. Their cards never reached them,” say residents of Mugamba commune.
“In Rutovu commune, the voter cards of the deceased and the elderly people were taken by the Imbonerakure (youth of the ruling party). The administration is in the process of manufacturing their identity cards. This is another form of electoral fraud, “say the residents of Rutovu.

Opponents in the south of the country assure that they will be very watchful on the election day.

“They think they are going to steal our victory. They will not make it,” said an activist from Rumonge.
“Our political representatives are imprisoned everywhere. We have anticipated all of this. There is another who will be there on the election day,” adds another CNL activist in Rumonge.

Communal electoral commission president ousted and imprisoned

Jean de Dieu Nshimirimana, president of the Communal Electoral Commission (CECI) in Songa commune in Bururi province, was arrested on May 11. He is accused by the municipal administration of professional misconduct.

According to the administration, the president of CECI-Songa hampered activities by placing polling station officials in localities different from their localities of origin.
In addition, he appointed candidates for the election of municipal councilors to the post of polling station presidents.

Emmanuel Hurumbirimana, head of CNL party in Songa commune, says that Mr. Nshimirimana instead refused to implement the orders of the communal administration.
They wanted to force him to place new polling station officials. He said that out of 23 CNL polling station members, 12 were removed from the list.

He also reveals that with the arrest of the president of the CECI, he fears that the remaining on the list could suffer the same fate.
“The accusation brought against him aims to keep him away so that they can put their plan into action,” said Hurumbirimana.

If this situation persists, he continues, the elections in Songa commune could take place in a tense climate. However, the administration of Songa commune ensures that the elections will take place in “perfect harmony.”

It’s worth noting that CEPI-Bururi has already provisionally appointed Yolande Nshimirimana as president of CECI-Songa.
Iwacu tried to reach Nancy- Ninette Mutoni, the ruling party’s communication officer, but to no avail.


Gaston Sindimwo: “It is deplorable to organize elections without international observers”

The UPRONA party presidential candidate deplores the fact that the elections will be organized without regional or international observers.
“We will have to monitor the conduct of the elections ourselves so that they are credible. It will be difficult, because the majority of the composition of the heads of the polling stations are from the ruling CNDD-FDD party”.
For Gaston Sindimwo, what will come out of these polling stations will not concern UPRONA. “It’s serious. 45% of them are from the ruling party and 25% from the administration while the CNDD-FDD party and the administration are the same thing,” he says.
“For the other political parties, it’s 2%. The most representative parties had to be included. We want credible elections. But it’s difficult especially since there are no more international observers.”

Agathon Rwasa: “The appointment of the members of the polling stations is a disaster”

For the CNL party, the cards of the registered deceased, prisoners or voters outside the country must be inventoried so that their holders are removed from the electoral lists to avoid that these cards are used fraudulently.
“Although voter cards were given, some people got their cards removed from them. This happened on Rugoma hill in Butaganzwa commune in Kayanza Province and elsewhere. Other cards were torn. ”
In his opinion, the CENI should define one or the other means allowing the concerned to participate in the vote like other citizens.

Agathon Rwasa deplores the lack of public display of the electoral lists. In addition, according to him, the appointment of members of the polling stations is a disaster.
“The appointees are almost from the CNDD-FDD party in complete ignorance of the CNL. It should also be mentioned that the members of the administration disguise themselves as beneficiaries in order to grab the places of the members of the polling stations which belonged to other political parties and the ruling party.”
For the CNL, these irregularities are likely to encourage electoral fraud and discredit the current electoral process.

The presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa invites the president of the CENI to get personally involved to enforce Article 40 of the Electoral Code on the equitable allocation of polling station places in order to guarantee a free, impartial and independent electoral process.

Aloys Baricako: “The members of the polling stations are mainly from CNDD-FDD”

At a press conference held on May 8, Aloys Baricako, president of Kira-Burundi coalition, expressed his apprehensions about the new voter cards.
“The voter card used for 2018 at the time of the constitutional referendum was also valid for the general elections of 2020!”

According to Mr. Baricako, for various reasons, several registered people were unable to get these new voter cards. “Some were given to organized people and others were not produced.”
This indicates, according to the head of Kira-Burundi, that the reason for the granting of the new card is intended for the manipulation of the electoral roll.

He also expresses himself on the non-publication of the electoral lists by the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).
“The commission tells us about 5,000,000 voters! However, out of a population of around 11 million Burundians, the majority of whom are very young, it is unlikely that half of them have a voting age!”

For Baricako, the availability of the electoral lists is a matter of transparency. “This would remove all these uncertainties!”
As for the members of the polling stations, the leader of the Kira-Burundi coaltion, denounces a mono-partisan composition in several places. “The members of the polling stations come essentially from the CNDD-FDD party”.

Francis Rohero: “The electoral lists are not the prerogative of only candidates”

The independent presidential candidate believes that these lists should have been made known to the public for a long time.

“Beforehand, they should be posted so that anyone can verify that they are among the voters.”
After all, he explains, elections are not the prerogative of only candidates. It is the meeting place for a whole people.
About the presidents of polling stations who are candidates at the same time, he does not mince words:

“If the CENI really recognizes that this is contrary to the Electoral Code, it is up to it to correct the situation.”

Phénias Nigaba : “The CENI failed in its mission from the start “

“How can we accept results when the law has been deliberately violated?” wonders Phénias Nigaba, spokesman for Sahwanya-FRODEBU party.

According to him, there are no members of the polling stations coming from this party on all the country’s territory. He claims that this exclusion sullies the triple ballot of May 20, 2020.
He says that the CENI has failed in its mission from the start.
“During the establishment of its branches, our party was sidelined. It’s very difficult to trust this commission.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Nigaba admits that the delegates of FRODEBU have received their accreditations to supervise the elections.

Pierre Claver Kazihise: “The electoral lists cannot be displayed for lack of sufficient space”

“The CENI will never accept that stolen cards be used during the triple ballot on May 20,” reassures Pierre Kazihise, president of the CENI.

As for the lamentations of some candidates, Mr Kazihise says: “On February 2, 2020, we held a meeting with all the leaders of the political parties. We officially announced to them that the electoral lists were available. ” he said.
According to him, they cannot be displayed due to the lack of sufficient space.
Concerning the appointment of the members of the polling stations, Pierre Claver Kazihise is unequivocal:

“The political landscape is not limited only to CNDD-FDD and CNL. With more than thirty political parties in Burundi, it is impossible to satisfy all of them, especially since each polling station has only five members.”

He reassures that “although they come from political parties, the members of the polling stations are at the service of the CENI.
“Severe punishment will be administered to anyone who violates the law,” he says.
The president of the CENI unequivocally affirms that political, ethnic and gender balances were respected in the composition of the polling stations.

Translated into English by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana