Newly appointed Special Rapporteur on Burundi, Fortuné Gaetan Zongo, presented his first oral update to the Human Rights Council.
He noted and congratulated Burundi for its progressive return on regional and international platforms since the election of President Évariste Ndayishimiye. Nevertheless, he stressed that efforts are still needed to better fight impunity and to open civic space by enabling the safe participation of civil society and the media. He notably urged the government of Burundi to engage with his mandate and allow him to visit the country.
“So far I only collected partial information, gathered through secondary sources, which could seriously undermine the credibility and neutrality of this work” shared the Special Rapporteur.
“Therefore, from this tribune, I would like to ask the Burundian authorities for the possibility to engage with them, to visit this brother country in order to better understand the realities, opportunities, challenges as well as their priorities,” the Special Rapporteur added.
ISHR delivered a statement highlighting how defenders continue to be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned, such as in the case of lawyer Tony Germain Nkina arrested in October 2020 in relation to his human rights work.
“ISHR also urges the Government of Burundi to reconsider its position and to cooperate fully and in good faith with all UN mechanisms, in particular to agree to allow the Special Rapporteur on Burundi to make an official visit to the country,” said Adélaïde Etong Kame, ISHR Africa Programme Manager.
Despite these calls, the government of Burundi reaffirmed that it will never accept non-consensual political, “gendarme-like” (sic) mechanisms that “interfere” (sic) in national affairs. It invites the Council to consider other channels of cooperation and “put an end to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur who has a geopolitical agenda and does not benefit from the support of national authorities” (sic).