After the Burundian government criticized a planned UN human rights probe in the country this week, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Bujumbura on Saturday in support of President Pierre Nkurunziza. There were reports that similar protests took place in more than 100 other areas across the country.
Bujumbura Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa, an ally of Nkurunziza’s, led the protests and accused the UN of producing "false reports."
"We have called on the population of the capital to stage a massive protest against the nomination of three so-called UN experts to investigate Burundi," Mbonimpa told AFP.
Burundi’s Solidarity and Human Rights Minister Martin Nivyabandi told a press conference on Thursday that the three UN investigators who have been mandated to look into human rights violations in Burundi are not welcome.
"We were not part of the process of setting up the commission. As the government of Burundi, we are not involved in the investigation to be made by this commission," said Nivyabandi.
He went on to call the investigation "neo-colonialism" and stated that the issue of human rights should be monitored by Africans themselves.
"There are some international organizations whose goal is to destabilize certain governments in Africa," he said.
The UN Human Rights Council has decided to appoint the investigators following a UN report from September that detailed atrocities and warned of "genocide." The alleged atrocities occurred after Nkurunziza announced his plan to run for a third term in April 2015. Commissioners from Algeria, Benin and Britain were appointed to lead the investigation.
The UN estimates that more than 500 people have died in Burundi since the announcement. Another report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said more than 1,000 had lost their lives and hundreds more were missing. At least 270,000 people are estimated to have fled the country.
According to Richard Shaba, an analyst at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Dar es Salaam, international organizations need to accept the fact that they will have to work with the Nkurunziza government to get anything done in Burundi.
"Nkurunziza is the president whether we say he is a legitimate leader or not. But at the moment he is holding the reigns," said Shaba.
- Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has been in office since 2005