Archive for June 11th, 2010
Lies in the name of “peace”? Opposition fears a stitch-up as European Union agrees to validate Burundian elections despite killings and voting irregularities
One of the most shocking NGO rumours I’ve heard in recent years was that UN observers in a South Asian country were willing to certify an election as legitimate not because it actually was free and fair, but because they feared that acknowledging the full extent of voting irregularities could plunge the country back into civil war.
Now there are fears in Burundi that the European Union – which has invested heavily in the “Burundian success story” narrative – may be trying something similar, following the first round of this year’s national elections.
In the run-up to May’s polling, dozens of opposition activists were murdered, and many others harassed and threatened by the security services, while the ruling party CNDD-FDD mobilised its youth militia to intimidate voters. When the respected monitoring group Human Rights Watch highlighted the extent of abuses, the Burundian government responded by expelling the HRW researcher from the country.
Now, amid serious concern about the legitimacy of the first round of elections, 13 opposition parties are boycotting the next rounds until they receive credible guarantees that the polls will be properly managed and monitored. Yet rather than address this issue directly, the Burundian government’s international sponsors appear to be holding to the line that the vote was fair, and are now pressurising the opposition to take part in further elections which they fear will be rigged.
Contacts of mine in Burundi tell me they are worried that the international community, in its eagerness to support the “success story”, is turning a blind eye to evidence of serious irregularities.
“It is normal after an election to hear some actors who do not want to recognize or accept the result of an election”, one EU official, Renate Weber, is quoted as saying to VOA news, before urging the opposition to address any concerns by filing a complaint with the same state authorities who have been killing and arresting their supporters.
One of the opposition figures rejecting the poll results is Alexis Sinduhije, a man who has been beaten, threatened, harassed, and served time in jail for his willingness to speak openly and honestly about the situation in his country. For the moment at least, I would attach more credence to his analysis of the situation than the opinions of some comfortable, generously paid, European Union official.