Saturday 21 April 2018
(AFP (eng) 03/21/18)
Forty-four African countries have signed an agreement establishing a free trade area seen as vital to the continent's economic development, the head of the African Union said Wednesday. "The agreement establishing the CFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) was signed by 44 countries," said Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU commission. The creation of a free trade area -- billed as the world's largest -- comes after two years of negotiations, and is one of the AU's flagship projects for greater African integration. However, the agreement will still have to be ratified at a national level, and is only due to come into force in 180 days. The full list of countries which did...
(AFP (eng) 03/19/18)
Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has set May 17 as the date for a referendum on a controversial constitutional reform that could keep him in power until 2034, according to a decree signed Sunday. Critics accuse Nkurunziza of trying to stay in power for life and say a personality cult has developed around the former rebel chief who has led the central African country since 2005. The government in October drafted reforms that would enable Nkurunziza to serve two seven-year mandates from 2020, but they have come under fire from the opposition and the international community, particularly the African Union. The opposition says the changes could sign the death warrant for the Arusha peace accord of 2000, which helped end a...
(AFP (eng) 03/17/18)
Burundi on Friday freed 740 prisoners, most of whom had been imprisoned after taking part in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza in 2015, the government announced. The detainees were released from Bujumbura's Mpimba prison -- the country's largest -- after a ceremony presided over by Justice Minister Aimee-Laurentine Kanyana, with several western ambassadors in attendance. Their release came in the wake of a presidential pardon at the turn of last year. Of the 740 released, 450 had been "sentenced for taking part in the insurrectional movement of 2015," Kanyana said, using the official term for protests that ran from late April to mid-June 2015.
(AFP (eng) 03/16/18)
Nine workers at a construction site outside Burundi's capital Bujumbura were killed in a landslide on Friday, police said. Heavy seasonal rains caused the hillside next to the Gasenyi river, east of the city, to collapse burying the workers who were building a channel to redirect the river's floodwaters. Police said in a statement that nine bodies had so far been found, while rescue efforts continue.
(AFP (eng) 03/14/18)
The EU warned African and other countries on Wednesday that their citizens will find it harder to get visas to Europe if they refuse to readmit economic migrants under the bloc's efforts to curb migration. Brussels has been seeking greater cooperation from such countries to take back irregular migrants since Europe was hit in 2015 with its worst migration crisis since World War II. "I cannot understand how a country can refuse to take back its nationals" when they have...
(AFP (eng) 03/13/18)
A new title bestowed on Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is "visionary", and not "eternal supreme guide", the ruling party said Tuesday after confusion over the official translation from the Kirundi language. Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD on Sunday announced Nkurunziza -- who critics claim is trying to lock in power for life -- would be known as "Imboneza yamaho", which the press translated as "eternal supreme guide", while some officials spoke of "permanent guide". The party's secretary general Evariste Ndayishimiye convened a press conference on Tuesday to address the issue of the translation of the president's title.
(AFP (eng) 03/12/18)
Burundi's ruling party has bestowed the title of "eternal supreme guide" on President Pierre Nkurunziza, a party official confirmed Sunday, as critics claimed he wants to lock in power for life. "He is our elder, our father, our adviser," CNDD-FDD secretary general Evariste Ndayishimiye said in a video sent to AFP whose authenticity was confirmed by an official. A party statement issued after a meeting Saturday of the party's top leadership in Nkurunziza's native Buye in the north of the...
(AFP (eng) 03/10/18)
Three civil rights activists in Burundi accused of undermining security have been sentenced in their absence to 10 years in prison, judicial sources said Friday. Emmanuel Nshimirimana, Aime Constant Gatore and Marius Nizigiyimana, members of the campaign group Parcem, had been planning a human rights workshop, according to fellow activists. "Our friends have not yet been officially notified but it is unfortunately confirmed," Faustin Ndikumana, the head of Parcem told AFP. The sentence was confirmed by judicial sources. They were arrested in June last year in possession of documents about the rights workshop, which the court said included comments from opposition activists but not government...
(AFP (eng) 03/09/18)
A thousand artists from over 50 countries will gather in Ivory Coast on Saturday for a week-long festival of African music, theatre, dance, comedy, slam poetry and storytelling. The 10th edition of the biannual Market for African Performing Arts, known by its French initials as MASA, will mark the 25th anniversary of the event. This year's crop of artists come from all over Africa and the African diaspora in Japan, Haiti and Canada, performing in the economic capital Abidjan and...
(AFP (eng) 03/07/18)
A group of 2,500 Burundian refugees, fearing repatriation to their home country, moved Wednesday from the Democratic Republic of Congo to nearby Rwanda, a spokesman said. The refugees belong to an obscure Catholic sect that follows a female prophet called Zebiya and claim to have fled their homeland due to religious persecution. In January the group said humanitarian agencies had stopped delivering them aid, after their refusal to register on a biometric database, which they said would violate their religion. "It has been two months that we have had no food aid from the (United Nations refugee agency), we were living under threat from our Congolese neighbours and we feared being extradited to Burundi,"...
(AFP (eng) 03/02/18)
Two Burundi officials have been arrested after their town's football team allegedly "roughed up" President Pierre Nkurunziza who was playing during a match with his personal team, legal sources and witnesses said Friday. A legal source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the administrator of the northern town of Kiremba as well as his deputy, who is in charge of sport, had been charged with "conspiracy against the president" on Thursday. It all started when the Kiremba team played...
(AFP (eng) 02/21/18)
One in three Burundians will need humanitarian assistance this year, a 20 percent increase on 2017 as conditions worsen in one of the world's poorest countries, the UN development body said Tuesday. The vulnerability of the Burundi people "is perpetuated by the socio-economic situation but also by the rise in natural disasters," said Garry Conille, Burundi representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). These problems have brought about "a deterioration in living conditions and access to basic services as well as the displacement of populations," he added. "Analysis of the humanitarian needs (of the country) shows that 3.6 million people, a third of the Burundi population, will need humanitarian assistance this year.
(AFP (eng) 02/20/18)
More than five million people have signed up to vote in Burundi's controversial constitutional referendum in May and elections in 2020, which could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034. By the end of the inscription process on Saturday, "a total of 5,000,742 people" signed up, including Burundians living abroad, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was quoted as saying Tuesday by local media. The figure was higher than CENI's estimate of 4.5 million earlier. This includes those who will be of voting age in time for the referendum as well as people who will become adult by the 2020 general elections...
(AFP (eng) 02/19/18)
About 224 million people are suffering from malnutrition across Africa as climate change and conflicts heighten food insecurity across the continent, a top UN food agency official said Monday. The official, speaking at a conference on Africa organised by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the situation was a "cause of concern" as the continent's population was expected to reach 1.7 billion by 2030. "Under-nourishment appears to have increased from about 21 percent to nearly 23 percent between...
(AFP (eng) 02/16/18)
Burundi's opposition parties on Friday denounced the "enforced enrolment" of voters ahead of a referendum on changes to the constitution which would allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in office until 2034. Opposition groups say the police and the ruling party's ferocious Imbonerakure youth wing, branded a militia by the UN, are forcing people to enrol ahead of the referendum in May. "What is happening is unacceptable. Getting registered (to vote) is a civil right, and a right that one...
(AFP (eng) 02/14/18)
Police in Burundi have threatened to arrest anyone campaigning prematurely against a referendum to revise the constitution, which if passed could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034. Police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye issued the warning to anyone who might "try to impede this process... especially to the youth who are deceived by some politicians." The video warning was posted on the website of the national radio and television broadcaster on Tuesday. All opposition parties are opposed to...
(AFP (eng) 02/12/18)
Thousands of people joined an official demonstration in Burundi on Saturday, in response to criticism by the United Nations chief about a planned revision to the country's constitution. The protest was called by the mayor of Bujumbura, the capital, after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres used a report to criticise proposals that could allow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to hold on to power for another decade or more. "We are here to denounce the report by the UN Secretary General on...
(AFP (eng) 02/08/18)
The inscription of voters for a constitutional referendum that could allow Burundi's president to prolong his rule began Thursday in Burundi, the independent national electoral commission (CENI) announced. If accepted by the electorate, the constitutional change passed by the government last October would enable President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, to stand for two further terms of office from 2020. All opposition parties are opposed to a referendum in May on changes that they say might be a death...
(AFP (eng) 02/08/18)
The African Union's chairman dismissed during a visit to Beijing on Thursday a French newspaper report alleging that China had spied on the continental body as "lies" intended to derail cooperation. The report published by Le Monde in January claimed technicians at the AU's Chinese-built headquarters in the Ethiopian capital discovered last year that the contents of their computers had been regularly copied to servers in Shanghai since 2012, citing unnamed AU sources. "I don't see it is in the...
(AFP (eng) 02/07/18)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is sharply criticizing a bid by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to make changes to the constitution that could see him hold onto power for another decade or more, according to a report obtained by AFP on Tuesday. Guterres said the opposition and civil society groups must be included in any decision to change the constitution to avoid a flareup of conflict in Burundi. "While it is the sovereign right of Burundi to amend its constitution, I...

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