Burundi moves to seize opposition assets

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Burundi’s Supreme Court ordered the seizure of assets belonging to opposition activists in exile, the latest swipe in an internationally condemned crackdown by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government.

The ruling applies to 32 politicians, rights campaigners and journalists abroad and to nine military officers jailed in Burundi over a 2015 coup attempt, according to a statement by the prosecutor general and Supreme Court president.

In power since 2005, Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term in 2015 was denounced as illegal by the opposition, triggering protests and a failed uprising. Nearly half a million people fled since the 54-year-old former sports teacher and ethnic Hutu guerrilla leader was re-elected.

Last year, Burundians approved a referendum enabling him to stay in power to 2034, deepening fears of authoritarianism and renewed ethnic conflict in the heart of Africa’s volatile Great Lakes region.

In the statement Prosecutor General Sylvestre Nyandwi said he informed the registrar of land titles buildings belonging to people on the list must be seized.

Vital Nshimirimana, a named opposition politician in exile, said it made a mockery of Burundi’s judicial system.

“These are people the regime of Pierre Nkurunziza wanted to assassinate,” he tweeted.

“Most are free and continue to expose the regime’s crimes.”

In March, Burundi forced the United Nations to shut its local rights office after 23 years, declaring it had made sufficient progress so the bureau was no longer justified.

The UN and international rights groups say there are credible reports of violations in Burundi and political freedoms have shrunk dramatically since 2015.

Government denies this and accuses former colonial power Belgium, the European Union and neighbouring Rwanda of destabilising Burundi.