BURUNDI: State Accuses Church of Spreading Hatred, Division ahead of 2020 Presidential Elections

GITEGA, SEPTEMBER 24, 2019 (CISA) – “Some bishops should be defrocked because it is becoming a habit: on the eve of elections they spit their venomous hatred through incendiary messages,” Willy Nyamitwe, Presidential spokesman has said on Twitter on September 22.

The original tweet posted in French reads, “Certains évêques devraient être défroqués car c’est devenu une habitude: A la veille des élections, ils doivent cracher leur venin de haine à travers des messages incendiaires. Pardieu! Quoi de plus normal puisqu’ils ne sont même pas le modèle de la piété. #Burundi”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Burundi had earlier raised concerns over attempts to “suffocate” certain political parties ahead of the May 2020 presidential election. In a pastoral letter read in Churches over the weekend, the bishops warned that “criminal acts go as far as murders with political motives…perpetuated against those with different opinions of the government,” AFP reported.

The bishops also warned that the Imbonerakure – the youth wing of the ruling party – had replaced security forces in the country. United Nations investigators have accused the Imbonerakure of widespread human rights abuses, including murder, rape, torture, and arbitrary detainment against political opponents.

The bishops have since been criticized by some government officials accusing them of spreading hatred and division.

President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi took power in 2015 following a peace agreement ending a civil war in the country. An estimated 1,200 people were killed in violence in the wake of the 2015 election and more than 400,000 displaced.

Under the new constitution, President Nkurunziza qualifies to contest for two more seven-year terms but during the promulgation of the new constitution on June 7, 2018 he promised not to seek a reelection after his term elapses in 2020.