In a public broadcast on , President Évariste Ndayishimiye announced that his presidency would usher in a new era: “We’ve said goodbye to the past... In the past... if you were a government agent... you could imprison people however you wanted. That’s finished. We’re in a democracy (now).”
In the first few weeks after the elections in , there were signs of hope. Ruling party leaders told their youth league, the Imbonerakure, to refrain from attacking their opponents. Human rights abuses decreased, showing how quickly improvements can be achieved when the ruling party gives orders. But barely two months later, the Imbonerakure went back to their old ways, arresting and beating suspected opposition members.
These dynamics are explored in the Burundi Human Rights Initiative’s report, “A stranglehold on Burundi’s future”, which provides an overview of the human rights and political situation in Burundi since the elections. The report documents a series of deadly attacks by armed groups in and , followed by a government crackdown on suspected collaborators.
The report describes the dominance of ruling party hardliners in the new government and traces the decline of the main opposition party, with its consequences for democracy in Burundi. It highlights the contradictions in President Ndayishimiye’s speeches and the gulf between his promises and the reality.
Some of the leaders who orchestrated the brutal repression of previous years have been promoted to senior positions. Chief among them are Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni and Gervais Ndirakobuca, minister of interior, community development and public security. The report delves into their past, with examples of serious crimes for which they bear responsibility.