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Burundi election campaign continues despite COVID-19

Burundi announced yesterday it has opened election campaigns for a national vote scheduled for May 20.

The election will take place following confirmation on March 31 of the country’s first COVID-19 cases. The president’s spokesperson said on April 7, in reference to the pandemic, that elections will go ahead because “[Burundians] are a people blessed by God.”

Health authorities have blocked journalists from accessing a Covid-19 press conference, which could indicate government attempts to suppress information about the pandemic.

Violence and repression have been the hallmark of politics in Burundi since 2015, and as elections approach and the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, tensions are rising,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“There is little doubt that these elections will be accompanied by more abuses, as Burundian officials and members of the Imbonerakure are using violence with near-total impunity to allow the ruling party to entrench its hold on power.”

Since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a controversial third term triggered a serious human rights crisis five years ago, confirming details of abuse has become increasingly difficult, as fear has engulfed the country and the authorities have intensified efforts to silence the media and activists, Human Rights Watch said.

On April 11, two Health Ministry officials blocked four journalists from attending a COVID-19 news conference in Bujumbura. “They told us we are enemies of the nation, and that we are not allowed to go in,” one journalist told Human Rights Watch.

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