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Closing Doors?
The Narrowing of Democratic Space in Burundi

R I G H T S

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | November 2010

H UMA N R I G H TS WATCH
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Burundi’s 2010 election period was marked by repression of civil society, media, and opposition parties. After
claiming that communal elections in May were fraudulent, opposition parties boycotted subsequent elections,
which resulted in a massive electoral victory for the ruling party. The government responded with a crackdown on
liberties that continued into the post-election period. It banned political meetings, outlawed an opposition
coalition, and unlawfully acted to convert the main opposition party into a satellite of the ruling party. Authorities
arrested several hundred opposition members; some were tortured. They also arrested journalists, harassed civil
society organizations, and branded those who spoke out on security and justice issues as “political opponents.”
Since September, a new wave of killings has targeted members of both the ruling party and the opposition.
The specter of a de facto one-party state, consisting mainly of officials who perceive dissident voices as enemies,
raises concerns about future repression and the narrowing of democratic space in Burundi. The possibility of
renewed armed conflict heightens concerns of abuse by the government and armed movements.

Closing Doors? urges the new government to take further steps toward establishing institutions that will promote
accountability; commit to reestablishing space for opposition parties to function; and allow journalists and civil
society activists to fulfill their monitoring function. It calls on international donors to match their demonstrated
support for civil society with an even-handed approach to the ruling party and the political opposition that is
rooted in upholding fundamental human rights.

A policeman stands outside the opposition party CNDD’s
headquarters in Bujumbura during a meeting of
opposition leaders on June 23, 2010. After police and
intelligence agents surrounded the office, opposition
leaders locked themselves in, fearing arrest.
© 2010 Martina Bacigalupo/VU

Burundi | Closing Doors?

This report documents the factors leading to the democratic breakdown, and the closing space for political
opposition, human rights defenders and journalists. It also examines the international reaction to such abuses,
and evaluates the ability of government institutions to protect human rights.

Burundi

H U M A N

Closing Doors?

R I G H T S

The Narrowing of Democratic Space in Burundi

W A T C H

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