Supporters of Burundi's ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, attend a campaign rally of their presidential candidate, Évariste Ndayishimiye, at the Bugendana stadium in Gitega province, 27 April 2020. ©2020 Private
Supporters of Burundi's ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, attend a campaign rally of their presidential candidate, Évariste Ndayishimiye, at the Bugendana stadium in Gitega province, . © Private

Burundi Election Statement

International inertia
as election tensions flare in Burundi

Once again, Burundi is at a crossroads. Will it turn the page on violence and impunity or lapse into revenge killings?

After provisional results declared that Évariste Ndayishimiye won the presidential elections and his ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, won the legislative and local elections, Burundians are worried that violence may escalate in the coming months.

The opposition CNL claimed that hundreds of its members were arrested, that serious fraud took place during the vote and that it was the rightful winner. The Catholic Church of Burundi, one of the few independent organisations that deployed election observers, issued a statement detailing widespread abuses and irregularities.

International actors’ silence in the face of serious violence before the elections is deeply worrying. Their reluctance to confront the CNDD-FDD about recent abuses will only embolden those in power to continue acting with impunity.

The Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI) calls on international actors to condemn the political violence unequivocally and urge party leaders to hold their members to account.

Download BHRI’s election statement of in English or in French.

Évariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi's ruling party secretary general (left), and President Pierre Nkurunziza (right) at the national prayer service in Gitega on 25 January 2020. The following day, the ruling party chose Ndayishimiye as its candidate for the 2020 presidential election. ©2020 Private
Évariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi's ruling party secretary general (left), and President Pierre Nkurunziza (right) at the national prayer service in Gitega on . The following day, the ruling party chose Ndayishimiye as its candidate for the presidential election. © Private

Party loyalist or reformer?

The man who could become Burundi's next president

Évariste Ndayishimiye, nicknamed Neva, is a man of many faces. A former rebel combatant, he has headed Burundi’s ruling party since mid- and may soon inherit the mantle of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is due to stand down in after 15 years in power.

This briefing paper paints a portrait of Ndayishimiye and highlights the human rights challenges that await him if he wins the elections. Ndayishimiye’s past, and the circumstances in which he was chosen as the ruling party candidate, bind him intimately with powerful political and military actors, some of whom have committed serious crimes. Will he have the resolve to stand up to them and take a strong stand against human rights violations?

Despite the global corona virus pandemic, which could have devastating consequences in Burundi, the Burundian authorities have so far insisted that elections will go ahead as planned on , with the official campaign period beginning on .

The Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI) has therefore decided to publish this paper in the hope that the information will prove useful during the coming months – a critical period for policy makers to adopt strategies to end Burundi’s human rights crisis.

The briefing paper entitled “Party loyalist or reformer? The man who could become Burundi's next president” is available in English and French.

Ruling party supporters salute during a rally in support of the constitutional referendum in Bujumbura on 14 May 2018. ©2020 Private
Ruling party supporters salute during a rally in support of the constitutional referendum in Bujumbura on

A façade of peace in a land of fear

Behind Burundi’s human rights crisis

In its report, “A façade of peace in a land of fear: Behind Burundi’s human rights crisis”, the Burundi Human Rights Initiative reveals what Burundi’s government doesn’t want you to know: the human rights crisis continues as the country heads towards elections in .

The ruling party has attempted to cover up brutal acts of political violence in which scores of government opponents have been quietly arrested, abducted or killed. Members of the ruling party youth league, the Imbonerakure, have discarded bodies under the cover of darkness and sometimes buried them in cemeteries, far from where the victims were abducted or killed.

The government insists that the country is peaceful and safe. But Burundians know the truth: if you oppose the government, you risk your life. As fear has spread among the population, silence has become a form of protection. A Burundian summed it up best: “Look and keep quiet. Even if someone is raped, even if your brother is killed, don’t say anything.”

BHRI’s report shines a light on the violence and those orchestrating it and analyses the political dynamics that allow the perpetrators of these crimes to act with impunity. As Burundi heads towards elections in , there is a window of opportunity for action. Burundian and international actors should seize the moment to prevent a further escalation of Burundi’s human rights crisis.

The report entitled “A façade of peace in a land of fear: Behind Burundi's human rights crisis” is available in English and French. A summary of the report is available in Kirundi.

What is the Burundi Human Rights Initiative?

The Burundi Human Rights Initiative (BHRI) is an independent human rights project that aims to document the evolving human rights situation in Burundi, with a particular focus on events linked to the elections. It intends to expose the drivers of human rights violations with a view to establishing an accurate record that will help bring justice to Burundians and find a solution to the ongoing human rights crisis.

The BHRI’s publications will also analyse the political and social context in which these violations occur to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of human rights trends in Burundi.

The BHRI has no political affiliation. Its investigations cover human rights violations by the Burundian government as well as abuses by armed opposition groups.

Carina Tertsakian, Lane Hartill and Thijs Van Laer lead the BHRI and are its principal researchers. They have worked on human rights issues in Burundi and the Great Lakes region of Africa for many years. The BHRI’s reports are the products of their collaboration with a wide range of people inside and outside Burundi.

Contact us

The BHRI welcomes feedback on its publications as well as further information about the human rights situation in Burundi. Please write to

contact@burundihri.org or +1 267 896 3399
(WhatsApp).

A view from a hill in Cibitoke province. On the night of 16 to 17 November 2019, a Burundian military position was attacked in the Kibira forest, in Mabayi commune, and many soldiers were reportedly killed. ©2020 Private
A view from a hill in Cibitoke province. On the night of to , a Burundian military position was attacked in the Kibira forest, in Mabayi commune, and many soldiers were reportedly killed. © Private