Burundi suspends NGOs for violating new laws

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Burundi suspended some local and international non-governmental organisations for three months for violating a new law, a senior government official said.

The move could deepen opposition concerns that a crackdown by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government is being extended. In May, a referendum approved a change to the constitution making it possible for him to stay in power until 2034.

Violence surged in 2015 when Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in what many said was a breach of the constitution. He won a subsequent election but the decision to stand sparked protests and a crackdown.

Silas Ntigurirwa, secretary of the National Security Council, gave no details of the number or identity of the groups he said were provisionally suspended from October 1. There are some 130 international NGO’s in Burundi, a government official said.
“After analysing how … non-government organisations carry out their activities nationwide, the National Security Council came to the conclusion most of them don’t comply with the law,” Ntigurirwa said.
“The resumption of activities shall be determined by conformity with the new law regulating NGO’s,” he said, referring to a law passed last year. Though Ntigurirwa mentioned the 2017 law, he gave no details of violations.

Presidential spokesman Jean Claude Karerwa said on local radio some NGO’s promote “same sex marriages and this is against our culture”.

Last month, Anicet Niyongabo, a senator, said authorities would investigate NGO hiring practices and said recruitment of Burundian staff should comply with ethnic and gender balances set out in the constitution.

The law requires recruitment of local staff at 60% Hutu and 40% Tutsi, Niyongabo said at the time.

The ethnic groups have a history of political rivalry. A long civil war in which 300,000 people died ended in 2005 was fought along ethnic lines.

Burundi, a small, landlocked country in East Africa, has a similar ethnic make-up neighbouring Rwanda, where Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in a 1994 genocide.