Burundi’s 2020 Election: You are either with us or against us

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As Burundi gears towards the presidential polls in 2020, the commissioner in charge of electoral operations in the East African country had told a group of journalists and civil society groups in Bujurumba on Wednesday that the country would “block the way for those media who do not want to follow the path taken by the government.”

Jean Anastase Hicuburund a senior official from the Burundi National Independent Electoral Commission made the threat and accused independent media and local press of being anti-government. The Burundi National Independent Electoral Commission is supposed to be an independent organisation, responsible for the organisation of elections in the country.

“They have done everything to bring the country to its knees,” Mr Hicuburund told the press in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.

The commissioner’s comment and tough stand vividly send a clear message to the media both at home and abroad, that the government of Burundi will not accept any alternative voice different from that of the government. For a country, which has been accused by many of exhibiting anti-democratic tendencies, Jean Anastase Hicuburund’s statement is, therefore, nothing different from the perception in different quarters that the government of Burundi illogically, sees any view different from that of the government as an “enemy” of the State.

Since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced to contest for the third term in the April 2015 presidential election, which many believed was illegal, the country has descended into near anarchy, with more than 1,200 innocent lives lost.  Not only that; more than 400,000 Burundians have been displaced between April 2015 and May 2017, following the violence, which greeted the President’s controversial decision. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into human rights abuses including war crimes in Burundi. Recently, Burundi has withdrawn her membership of the ICC.

Burundi’s allergic to independent media is not new. Ranged 159th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the government of Burundi has recently, banned many local and foreign news media in the country, over what it terms anti-government news. After suspending FM radio broadcasts of the BBC and Voice of America last year, the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza equally banned BBC from operating in the country in March.

“You witnessed the events of 2015. It was mainly the independent media that had received from abroad the mission to create chaos. The Burundian people must disassociate themselves from the media that do not support government action.” Hicuburund accused.

With the general election scheduled for 2020, it is clear that the government of Burundi is not keen to establish some degree of genuine political reforms that would help the citizens to make the right choice in the poll and avoid further political instabilities and loss of lives. Furthermore, it has become obvious that Burundi’s leaders have not learned much from their country’s bloody past.

 Clearly, who else can explain the biblical passage “Whoever is not with me is against me” better than the pastor-turned politician, President Pierre Nkurunziza?