Burundi rejects UN mediator after report criticises elections

Protests erupted in April in response to Burundi president’s bid for third term

Burundi soldiers march at the entrance of the Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura during the celebrations of the Country 53rd Independence Anniversary on July 1st. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Burundi soldiers march at the entrance of the Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura during the celebrations of the Country 53rd Independence Anniversary on July 1st. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

 

Burundi on Sunday rejected a second United Nations diplomat named to help resolve the country’s political crisis, saying a critical report about last week’s parliamentary elections demonstrated bias.

The tiny east African country plunged into turmoil in late April when protests erupted in response to president Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. The opposition boycotted the June 29th parliamentary election and says it will boycott the July 15th presidential vote.

The rejection of Abdoulaye Bathily came in response to a UN report saying its mission in Burundi had observed restrictions on media freedoms, arbitrary detentions and acts of violence around the June 29th vote.

Burundi’s ruling coalition blamed Mr Bathily for the report.

“He has produced a critical report not reflecting reality on the scene, saying that elections of June 29th were not ‘free and credible’, while (the ruling coalition) believe that these elections were transparent, fair , free and credible and were held in peace and security,’” it said in a letter to the UN secretary general.

The coalition accused Bathily of exhibiting a “lack of neutrality”.

Mr Bathily’s appointment was announced on June 21st.

The previous UN mediator, Said Djinnit, left the role after only a few weeks after criticism from the opposition that he was biased in the government’s favour, a charge he dismissed. Mr Djinnit remains UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region.

Dozens of people have been killed since the crisis erupted in Burundi.

In addition, about 140,000 people have fled the country, stoking concern in a region with a history of ethnic conflict, particularly in Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed in 1994.

New Zealand’s UN ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, president of the UN Security Council for July, said last week the 15-member body expressed concern “that the minimum conditions for free, fair, transparent and credible elections were not met” in the June 29th vote.

Reuters