June 2023 | Burundi’s main opposition party suspended
On 6 June, Burundi’s Minister of Interior, Martin Niteretse announced that his office had suspended the country’s main opposition party, the National Freedom Council (CNL). In a letter communicating the decision to the CNL, the Minister cited ‘irregularities’ during two recent party congresses, in which several CNL members were ousted from the party over their opposition to its President. In May, Niteretse had challenged the decisions taken during the congresses, on the grounds that they had not been conducted in compliance with the party’s statutes and had demanded that the CNL’s president unite with its ousted members. The CNL, however, alleged the suspension was an unconstitutional interference in its affairs and an attempt to destabilise the party ahead of the 2025 legislative elections. Shortly after the suspension was announced, at least 16 CNL activists were reported to have been arbitrarily arrested and detained on spurious charges of holding an illegal meeting. The ruling party has long used Burundi’s police force to repress opposition party activists, but civil society monitors said the situation had deteriorated since the CNL’s suspension.
March 2023 | 24 people charged with ‘homosexual practices’ under anti-LGBTQIA+ law
A Burundian court has charged 24 people with ‘homosexual practices and incitement to homosexual practices’ under a law that criminalises same-sex sexual activity and prescribes prison sentences of up to two years for those who breach its provisions. According to human rights organisation ACAT-Burundi, all of those charged had been arrested whilst attending a seminar run by an NGO working to combat HIV/AIDS. It also reported that after their arrest, the 24 were interrogated for ten days before being charged and will remain in prison until their trial. Reports from LGBTQIA+ organisations suggest that since the law came into force in 2009, it has been infrequently enforced, with charges rare. Successive Burundian governments have, however, ignored calls from human rights actors to repeal the law, including from the UN Human Rights Committee, which found that it discriminates against LGBTQIA+ people, contrary to the country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
December 2022 | Human Rights Lawyer Tony Germain Nkina Acquitted
On 20 December, Tony Germain Nkina, a lawyer and former employee of a leading Burundian human rights organization, was acquitted of all charges by the appeal court of Ngozi. The lawyer and human rights activist had been arrested on 13 October 2020 and accused of collaborating with rebel movements. Human Rights Watch noted that it was “a rare instance of judicial independence in Burundi.” Even though the prosecutor first chose not to sign the release order and intended to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr Nkina was freed from prison on 27 December. The case was then sent back to the Ngozi Court of Appeal, which cleared him at the end of 2022.
September 2022 | Burundi’s president purges his cabinet after alleging coup plot
With the support of the country’s parliament, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye sacked his Prime Minister, Alain Bunyoni, and cabinet chief, General Gabriel Nizigama, after alleging a coup plot by unnamed individuals. Fifty-four provincial police commissioners were also sacked or redeployed. It was reported that all those who were purged were loyalists of Ndayishimiye’s deceased predecessor, Pierre Nkurunziza, with Bunyoni having served as Nkurunziza’s police chief. Ndayishimiye’s relationship with Bunyoni had grown increasingly acrimonious in recent months, with some commentators attributing this to the fact that the Prime Minister’s business activities have been targeted as part of the President’s anti-corruption campaign. Burundi’s security agencies have a long history of involvement in the country’s politics, which has experienced numerous coups and coup attempts, including a coup attempt in 2015. Commentators have suggested that the purge is unlikely to end tensions between the President and powerful securocrats.