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Africa

Burundi civil society won't recognise Nkurunziza's re-election, violence set to continue

media Police search a man at a polling station in Bujumbura during the country's … REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Provisional results in Burundi’s controversial presidential elections are expected on Friday. Ahead of the results, a civil society leader has told RFI that he will not recognise Pierre Nkurunziza as president at the end of his current mandate. Rights group Amnesty International has published a report accusing security forces of punishing protesters for expressing their political views in a violent crackdown.

“The people are sovereign, sovereignty belongs to the people,” Vital Nshimirimana, head of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society told RFI. He says Burundian civil society will not recognise Nkurunziza as head of state past 26 August 2015, the end of his current mandate.

This week’s polls follow months of protests in Bujumbura against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office. On the eve of the election, gunfire and grenade blasts were heard in Burundi’s capital.

Nshimirimana says he expects violence to continue, pointing out that political opponents were “hunted” and “extrajudicial killings” took place after the 2010 polls. The civil society leader refers back to the coup d’état in 1996, saying that “all the reasons that have led to the violence are there again”.

The US, European Union and former colonial power Belgium have all said Tuesday’s election was not credible. African Union monitors have arrived in the country and are expected to report on possible violations of human rights.

Protesters punished for their political views - Q&A: Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International

Do you think the government intended to violently crackdown on the protests in Burundi?

It’s clear from the findings of our report that the government did intend to crack down on the protests. Even before the protests broke out they termed protesters as insurgents and there was a clear and concerted effort to crush the protests. To do this, the police resorted to excessive force and lethal force at times.

How divided is the police force itself?

Our research shows that there are divisions emerging within the police force. Indeed, we interviewed policemen who were frustrated by the orders that they’d received. Some of them hadn’t honoured them, they were concerned that what they were being asked to do violated the training that they had received in human rights. So we see the emergence of a parallel chain of command within the police force. And it’s those individuals that have been responsible for excessive use of force and indeed for extrajudicial executions on the margins of the protests.

Who is supplying the weaponry to Burundian security forces?

We have documented hardware that has been provided by companies in Israel and in France. We have written to those companies but we have not received a response.

Follow Daniel Finnan on Twitter @Daniel_Finnan

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