UN relief wing says unrest continues in Burundi, requests funds for humanitarian contingency planning

30 April 2015 – Civil unrest continued for a fourth day in areas of Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, after current President Nkurunziza was nominated by the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party as their candidate for upcoming presidential elections, the United Nations relief arm reported today.

According to a report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the Great Lakes region, Said Djinnit, is currently in Burundi meeting with Government representatives to urge them to ensure security, guarantee freedom of expression, and create room for dialogue.

To date, a total of seven deaths, including two police officers, have been reported, though OCHA notes that outside of the capital, the situation has remained relatively calm, although many shops and schools remained closed.

Among recent developments is a communications clampdown, under which platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp having been blocked by authorities, and Radio Publique Africaine shut down. Humanitarian actors are concerned that a media and communications blackout could serve to fuel rumours and further fan an already high level of anxiety among the population.

In the provinces of Gitega and Muramvya in central Burundi and Rumonge in the country’s South, students were reported to be leaving secondary schools because of security concerns, although no incidents have been reported. Education Minister Rose Gahiro on Tuesday tried to reassure students, and appealed for them to remain in school.

In one positive development, human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was released from detention on Tuesday.

The interagency humanitarian contingency plan for elections in Burundi was presented to donors and partners in Nairobi today, urgently requesting $11.6 million for priority preparedness and response to the needs of up to 50,000 people who could be affected in the first eight weeks after elections.

The UNHCR, in regular updates released on the situation, has also been reporting people fleeing over the border to Rwanda, with nearly 21,000 Burundians, mostly women and children, having arrived this month, citing intimidation and threats of violence linked to the upcoming elections.