Crackdown on protests in Burundi needs to stop, say women during downtown demonstration

Daniel Finnan

Women staged the first major protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza in downtown Bujumbura on Sunday, demonstrating against his candidacy for a third term in office. After two weeks of protests and clashes with the police, the women are the first to bring the movement against a third term to the heart of the capital.


“It’s not good for our country,” Beatrice Nyamoya, one of the protest leaders, told RFI. “You know the women and the children are the first to suffer,” she adds.

More than 200 women gathered outside the ministry of the interior marking the first significant demonstration in the downtown area of the capital. Other protests in the centre of the city had only attracted a handful of people and were quickly put down by police.

“We’re asking the government and the international community to help us,” says Nyamoya, who works as a jurist for the government. “(We're asking them) to help us keep these two instruments intact: the constitution and the Arusha Agreement,” she says.

Nkurunziza’s candidacy in June’s elections has already been rubberstamped by Burundi’s constitutional court. It ruled another term in office would not act as a third term because the first term was not under universal suffrage.

Demonstrators say Nkurunziza should not be interfering with the conditions of the Arusha Agreement, the peace deal that ended the country’s 12-year civil war, because it also outlined term limits.

At least 19 people have died since the start of protests led by civil society. Burundi’s National Security Council on Saturday called for an end to what it calls an “insurgency” and ordered security forces to remove barricades erected by protesters.

“We don’t want any more people to be killed. The president has to stop that,” says protester Alice, who works for a women’s organisation in the northern Kirundo province.

The women’s protest downtown did not meet any serious resistance from the police, although there were angry exchanges when the women’s route was blocked.

Protesters like Alice are worried that breaking the constitution, as they see it, and ignoring the conditions of the Arusha Agreement could lead to another war. “We’ve been at war for a long time,” she says, explaining that words of peace might help Nkurunziza to see the reality of the situation.

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