BURUNDI : The dilemna of the Burundian voter in the face of many intimidations
Today, Burundi finds itself four days before its presidential election, in which the only candidate will represent the CNDD-FDD and contest his own succession. After the communal primary elections, the results were rejected en bloc by 13 opposition parties, of which 12 form part of a coalition called ADC-Ikibiri. In such a situation, where tension and political impasse prevail in the country, there has been an alarming increase in incidents of violence related to election issues. Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, there has not been a single night in which grenades were not launched. In the period of 11 June to 23 June, the police recorded 54 grenades resulting in 46 wounded and eight dead.
Voters between a rock and a hard place.
With only one candidate, the presidential campaign takes place in a climate of tension where the voters are under pressure from conflicting political leaders. The main challenges for the smooth execution of the election will be the participation rate and security. However, despite calls for dialogue from both civil society and the international community, it is clear that both the incumbent party and the opposition remain radical in their positions The ruling party in the countryside both invites and intimidates the voters to go en masse to the polls, while the opposition both encourages and intimidates them to do the opposite and boycott the elections.
To go to the polls or not: either option constitutes a danger for the voter. On the one hand, the indelible ink and the stamp on the ballot, initially intended to guarantee transparency and to prevent electoral fraud, may be perceived as placing the voter in a highly visible position. Moreover, the polling stands are already approached as potential targets of violence between supporters of the president and the opposition. On the other hand, the population that chooses not to vote fears the violence that could be perpetrated in retaliation for not voting.
Already in the primary election, voter intimidation was one of the most important factors reported to have influenced the results. Given that Burundi is a young democracy and that the population is largely illiterate, such practices can be highly influential.
In recent days, the monitoring project on democratic principles indicates a remarkable increase in the cases of intimidation both from the ruling party and from several opposition parties. For example, the project observers report a campaign of intimidation, to the point where nonvoters are visited at their home, day or night, as a warning, harassment or a veiled threat.
Based on these observations, we call upon all those who support peace and democracy, the political parties, CENI and above all the international community, to draw attention to the risks that voting citizens face in this time of radical antagonism between political participants.
Recognizing that it is better to prevent than to cure, and building on lessons learned - particularly in the last communal election, we recommend the following:
To the Government :
• To undertake all possible efforts to assure the general security of the population, in particular in and around polling places on the day of the upcoming elections and the aftermath. • To punish objectively and without discrimination or complicity all those responsible for intimidation and insecurity, in particularly in these sensitive times. • To deliver a reassuring message to all parties, as a guarantee of peace and security in the Burundian nation. • To end all politically-motivated arrests as well as all forms of torture and liberate all political detainees and political prisoners.
To the CENI :
• To respect and conform to the electoral code and to forbid the practice of intimidation that has reappeared in recent days. • To demonstrate greater openness and restore confidence with respect to all the political processes. • To utilize the lessons of the primary election and give sufficient attention to all demonstrated indicators of irregularity that could reoccur in the forthcoming election.
To the political parties
• To end the use of all forms of violence and, in particular, the practice of voter intimidation. • To allow for a place for dialogue where participants can express their differences without an escalation towards violence. • To demonstrate responsibility and political maturity in order to preserve the gains of democracy and peace.
To the international community :
• To support the political process in a more proactive manner towards the opening of a dialogue between opposing parties. • Not to focus solely on the physical security of polling stations, but to acknowledge all forms of pressure (verbal aggression, death threats, terrorism....) which would pressure people to not fully exercise their freedom. • To follow closely with greater vigilance and oversight the electoral process in Burundi, with all of its subtleties.
Declared in Bujumbura, 25 juin 2010
The signatory organizations:
La Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring des Elections(COSOME)(The Coalition of Civil Society for the Monitoring of Elections) KAVUMBAGU Jean-Marie Vianney, Président
L’Association pour la Promotion des Droits de l’Homme et des Personnes détenues (APRODH) (The Association for the Promotion of the Human Rights and Detained Persons.) MBONIMPA Pierre-Claver, Président
La Ligue Burundaise des Droits de la Personne humaine (Ligue ITEKA) (Burundian League for Human Rights) NDAYIZEYE Joseph, Président
Forum pour le Renforcement de la Société Civile(FORSC) (Forum for the Reinforcement of Civil Society). NININAHAZWE Pacifique, Président
Observatoire de l’Action Gouvernemental(OAG) (the Observatory of Governmental Action) NDUWAYO Onesphore
Collectif des Associations et ONG Féminines du Burundi(CAFOB) (Collective of Burundian Women’s Associations and NGOs)
Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture(ACAT Burundi)
Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT Burundi)
NIYONGERE Armel, Président
Observatoire de Lutte Contre les Malversations Economiques
(Observatory for the Fight against Corruptiotn and Economic
RUFYIRI Gabriel, Président
Association des Femmes Juristes du Burundi(AFJB) Association of Women Jurists of Burundi
NIYONZIMA CARITAS, Président
Centre d’Alerte et de Prévention des Conflits Conflict Alert & Pervention Center
NDAYIZIGA Charles, Coordonnateur
Association pour la Défense des Droits de la Femme(ADDF) Association for the Defence of Women’s Rights
NIYONZIMA Mireille, Présidente