Burundian professionals and government officials have slammed a United Nations (UN) report into alleged human rights abuses in the country as “unprofessional” and “alarming”.
“The new report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi: Apocalyptic cliches and shock statements do nothing to help Burundians,” said East African community (EAC) Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko.
“Many of the EAC Ambassadors and experts whom Mr. Doudou Diène has never deigned to meet regret his obvious lack of nuance and impartiality,” he added.
The commission concluded in its report that “serious human rights violations – including crimes against humanity – have continued to take place since May 2018, in particular violations of the right to life, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, sexual violence, and violations of economic and social rights, all in a general climate of impunity.”
The targets, it said, were in particular real and suspected opposition supporters, as well as Burundians who have returned from abroad, including under a United Nations-backed voluntary repatriation program, and human rights defenders.
But the Burundian government said the UN investigators did not step in the country but relied on hearsay and reports by opposition members living in the diaspora.
The commission was established in September 2016 to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Burundi since April 2015, and whether and to what extent they may constitute international crimes.
Burundi’s government maintains the country is stable and peaceful.
Officials informed ChimpReports on Wednesday that the report was not only damaging for the Burundian government but also undermined efforts to attract foreign direct investment to widen the country’s tax base, create employment and boost the private sector.
“None of these investigators ever set foot in Burundi. How can one have a professional report in this way?” wondered a Burundian official who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
Asked if the UN investigators engaged Burundian authorities, another high ranking government official observed: “None of them approached our EAC Ambassadors, Peace and Security, Political Affairs, Defense and Police Liaison Officers.”
Acleo Nkurunungi, a regional conflicts analyst, said the Greatlakes region is yet to realize complete stability but that external forces were exacerbating the situation.
“Burundi is recovering from an internal conflict. How do we attract investors in the EAC region with so much denigration and constant alarmism?” he wondered.
“The so-called international experts have become accustomed to ignoring the truth for their own agenda.”
On August 25, Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye and his Tanzanian counterpart, Kangi Lugola, jointly visited Nduta camp in Tanzania and called on refugees to return to Burundi.
Lugola later told media that Tanzania would begin to send all Burundian refugees back on October 1 and continue at a rate of 2,000 a week, stating that “Burundi is at peace and the refugees should go home.”
Just over 180,000 Burundian refugees currently live in three camps in Tanzania.