Burundi Suspends NGO's for 3 Months
The government of Burundi announced late on Thursday that the nation would be suspending operations of some non-governmental organizations for three months, citing a violation of a new law.
The decision came from the National Council of Security, chaired by President Pierre Nkurunziza. It is unclear how many NGOs will be suspended, with critics claiming that the move targets only international groups. There are currently over 130 international NGOs operating in Burundi.
The suspension will begin October 1, with resumption of activities conditional on compliance with a 2017 regulatory law. While the government did not release a list of suspended NGOs, President Nkurunziza’s spokesman, Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, warned on Friday that the suspended NGOs know who they are, adding that some groups could be suspended indefinitely.
The move comes amidst fears that the Nkurunziza government is cracking down on opponents. Burundi’s relations with civil society groups have deteriorated since 2015, when violence erupted after President Nkurunziza successfully ran for a third term, deemed by many to be unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, a referendum approved constitutional changes that allow Nkurunziza, who has been president since 2005, to remain in power for 14 years after his term expires in 2020. However, he has said he will not seek another term.
The National Council of Security also claims that the suspended NGOs work against the values of Burundian culture. The president’s spokesman accused some NGOs of working for multinational drug companies, promoting same-sex marriage, and producing weapons to “establish neocolonialism.” He further claimed that these groups seek to profit from diseases and a growing ammunition market.
This month, a government official announced that authorities would investigate the hiring practices of NGOs. A constitutional regulation mandates that Burundian staff must be composed of 60% Hutus and 40% Tutsi, a move meant to balance the representation of ethnic groups in a nation long plagued by sectarian tensions. The authorities warned that the NGOs who do not comply with this regulation would be punished.
The two ethnic groups have a long history of deadly tensions and political rivalry, similar to neighboring nation Rwanda, where 800,000 Tutsis were killed in a 1994 genocide. In Burundi, the civil war which took place from 1993-2005 and saw 300,000 casualties was also fought along ethnic lines.