Burundi official calls for laicization of bishops over election message

Gitega, Burundi, Sep 23, 2019 / 06:59 pm (CNA).- Government officials in Burundi have accused the country’s bishops of spreading hatred and division following a message from the bishops warning of violence and corruption in the country’s election preparations.

According to AFP, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Burundi released a letter voicing concern over efforts to “suffocate” certain political parties ahead of the May 20 presidential election.

The letter, which was read in churches over the weekend, warned that “[c]riminal 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. UN investigators have accused the Imbonerakure of widespread human rights abuses, including murder, rape, torture, and arbitrary detainment against political opponents.

In response to the letter, Evariste Ndayishimiye, secretary-general of the ruling party, accused the bishops of “sowing division” and “spread[ing] hatred.”

“Some bishops should be defrocked because it is becoming a habit: on the eve of elections they spit their venomous hatred through incendiary messages,” said presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe on Twitter.

A United Nations report earlier this year warned that the 2020 elections in Burundi “pose a major risk” for atrocity crimes. It pointed to red flags including increasing government control, a lack of a true multi-party system, suppression of free press, and a climate of intimidation against those who oppose the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Burundi’s current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, took power in 2005 following a peace agreement ending a civil war in the country.

Burundi’s last presidential election, held in 2015, was marred by protests, an attempted coup, and grenade attacks, with much of the unrest sparked by anger over Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term, which the opposition said was unconstitutional.

Some 1,200 people were believed to have been killed in the violence that followed the election, and over 400,000 people were displaced from their homes, AFP reports.

In 2018, voters approved a new constitution allowing Nkurunziza to run for two more seven-year terms. However, Nkurunziza said last year that he would not seek re-election. Still, concerns remain high, with the United Nations calling for vigilance in the months leading up to the election.

Poverty in Burundi is widespread, with the majority of the population facing food shortages.


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.