Target: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza
Goal: Do not charge activists for protesting unconstitutional re-election bid.
A group of activists is being charged with “participation in an insurrectionary movement” following protests in the Burundi capital. The Bujumbura protesters were blasted with water cannons and tear gas during the clash and later arrested. The group had gathered to protest President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third presidential term, despite the nation’s constitutional two-term limit. Urge President Nkurunziza to immediately release the protesters and drop all charges against them.
According to Human Rights Watch, Burundians have been subject to myriad freedom of expression violations in an effort to quell the current administration’s opposition as the 2015 elections approach. The rights group reported numerous instances of government harassment and violence perpetrated against journalists,activists and citizens alike. Tensions in the nation have become so taught, in fact, that more than 8,000 Burundians have fled the country seeking refuge in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of the refugees are children.
President Nkurunziza came to power following a 13-year civil war that ravaged the country. Nkurunziza’s party claims that a third presidential term would not violate the 10-year cap because the President was elected to his first term by lawmakers and not the public. Whatever the validity of that argument, the people of Burundi are well within their rights to disagree, yet 65 citizens face charges of rebellion and those accused of throwing stones at police during the clash face charges of “armed insurrection,” which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. Prominent Burundi activist, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa—who was previously arrested by the current administration shortly after speaking out in opposition of the party—has condemned the arrests and charges, arguing that the government’s actions were politically charged.
Urge the Burundi government to immediately release the Bujumbura protesters and to drop all
charges against them.
Dear President Nkurunziza,
The recent protests in Bujumbura urging the Government of Burundi to uphold its constitution and maintain a 10-year cap on presidential terms was met with violence and suspicion. The charges being leveled against the activists are out of proportion to their actions.
The people of Burundi have a right to voice their feelings, especially where their country’s future is concerned, and responding so inappropriately to their disagreement reflects poorly on your administration’s protection of its people’s rights. In the wake of the upcoming elections it is more important than ever for the government to stand behind its citizens and prove that their rights and interests are the top priorities.
I urge you to immediately release all Bujumbura protesters and to rescind the charges against them.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: World Economic Forum/Eric Miller via Flickr