By Dipo Olowookere
The Burundian government has been charged to take prompt and effective action to protect civilians, including allowing the immediate admission of a UN police contingent to monitor the security and human rights situation in the country.
This appeal was made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
CERD expressed deep concern regarding a Civil Service questionnaire issued on November 8 that asks public servants to state their ethnicity.
The fact that armed militia are openly intimidating people demonstrates, “the unwillingness or the inability of the Government to protect civilians,” the Committee wrote in a decision issued under its early warning and urgent action procedure.
“Such a survey, given Burundi’s history of virulent ethnic conflict, could spread fear and further mistrust among the population, and could be hugely dangerous if misused,” said CERD Chairperson, Ms Anastasia Crickley.
Acting under its early warning procedure, CERD also voiced deep concern at reports of killings, summary executions, disappearances and torture; the frequent use of hate speech by Government officials; and the growing number of Burundians fleeing the country.
The Committee deplored Burundi’s increased lack of co-operation with the international community and called on the Government to re-engage with the UN Human Rights Office. CERD also urged the Government to abide by Burundi’s human rights obligations, including those arising from the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“CERD established its early warning procedure in response to the conflicts of the early 1990s, including in the Great Lakes region, as a way of preventing problems or crises from escalating into conflicts and above all to prevent the wounds of old conflicts from re-opening,” said Ms Crickley. “That is why we expressed alarm in August this year and this is why we are raising our voice again.
“Burundi is at a dangerous junction. We therefore call on the Government to step back from any actions that risk stoking ethnic conflict and that could even be a precursor to mass atrocities,” said Ms Crickley.
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