The security situation remains fragile in Burundi, and the crackdown on the political opposition and civil society continues. According to Human Rights Watch, Burundi’s security services and members of the Imbonerakure, the ruling party’s youth league, continue to carry out widespread human rights abuses, including summary executions, rapes, abductions, beatings, and intimidation of suspected political opponents.
The influx of returning and new refugees put increased strain on the country, exacerbating food insecurity and the spread of malaria. Space for civil society and the media continued to shrink, with increasing numbers of non-governmental organisations seeing their work restricted, suspended, or stopped entirely.
In 2020 we began working with REJA (Network of Youth Organisations in Action for Peace), a network of 164 youth organisations spread across Burundi, working at both the national and community level to improve coordination and efficiency.
They support youth-led organisations to combine their efforts, strengthen their capacity, and advocate for young people’s needs to be included in public policies.
Central to their work is strengthening social cohesion. They do this by engaging young people in social and political life and focusing on increasing youth employability and responsible citizenship.
In previous years, our local partners faced a number of challenges to their work due to the country’s constraining environment, and the work of our former partners had to stop in August 2019.
During the time they were active, they continued their vital work to report on violence and human rights abuses. 1,446 incidents were reported; alerting communities to cases of escalating tensions, and intervening against human rights abuses so that violence stopped before taking root. 109 citizen reporters continued to coordinate violence monitoring activities, and 12 reports were distributed to raise awareness of the situation. Through the reporting system and training provided, members of the networks around the country were able to successfully intervene to prevent wrongful arrests and arbitrary detentions.
In their words: Bukeyezena's* Story
“My name is Bukeyezena*, I am 52 years old and I work as the contact person for violence monitoring in one of the localities of Makamba. Thanks to the training I received from the network, I look forward to my contribution to conflict resolution in my community. In the event of an incident, I alert the authorities and other high-level contacts that may be able to have an influence over the outcome for the victim. A member of a village in Makamba province was arrested and put in the prison in April 2018 by a Judicial Police Officer. He was arrested by the Imbonerakure because of his political affiliation with the opposition party. Following my intervention, he was released the next day. I pleaded on his behalf by explaining the irregularities of his arrest. It is thanks to the training and technical advice from the network around how to adapt and respond to the reality on the ground that I was able to do this.”
*Name changed for security reasons
– Bukeyezena, peacebuilder.