Burundi suspends some NGO's for violating new law

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi has suspended some local and international non-governmental organizations for three months for violating a new law, a senior government official said late on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza claps after signing the new constitution at the Presidential Palace in Gitega Province, Burundi June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana/File Photo

The move could deepen opposition concerns that a crackdown by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government is being extended. In May, a referendum approved a change to the constitution that makes it possible for him to stay in power until 2034.

Violence surged in 2015 when Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in what many said was a breach of the constitution. He won a subsequent election but the decision to stand sparked protests and a crackdown.

Silas Ntigurirwa, secretary of the National Security Council, gave no details of the number or identity of the groups he said were provisionally suspended from October 1. There are some 130 international NGO’s in Burundi, a government official said.

“After analyzing how ... non-government organizations carry out their activities nationwide, the National Security Council came to the conclusion that most of them don’t comply with the law,” Ntigurirwa said.

“The resumption of activities shall be determined by their conformity with the new law regulating NGO’s,” he said, referring to a law passed last year. Though Ntigurirwa mentioned the 2017 law, he gave no details of the violations.

Presidential spokesman Jean Claude Karerwa said on local radio on Friday that some NGO’s promote “same sex marriages, and this is against our culture”.

This month, Anicet Niyongabo, a senator, said authorities would investigate NGO hiring practices and said recruitment of their Burundian staff should comply with the ethnic and gender balances set out in the constitution.

The law requires the recruitment of local staff at 60 percent Hutu and 40 percent Tutsi, Niyongabo said at the time.

The two ethnic groups have a history of political rivalry. A long civil war in which 300,000 people died ended in 2005 and was fought along ethnic lines.

Burundi, a small, landlocked country in East Africa, has a similar ethnic make-up to its neighbor Rwanda, where Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in a 1994 genocide.

Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Maggie Fick and Matthew Mpoke Bigg