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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Bujumbura parade protests against U.N. report
criticizing process of constitutional referendum

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Burundians took to the streets of capital Bujumbura on Saturday to protest against a United Nations report criticizing the country’s process of amending its constitution.

Protesters, who started the march at the United Nations Square in Ngagara, northern Bujumbura, held banners that read "we are against lies and fabrications contained in the report by the UN secretary general that was given to the UN security council to drive Burundi into an abyss."

Other banners said "things relating to the national constitution are a business of citizens as they are linked to the sovereignty of a country."

During the march that took them to Bujumbura city center, demonstrators shouted:

"Michel Kafando (UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Burundi), we denounce you!"

The protesters also urged countries hosting perpetrators of the May 13, 2015, coup plot to arrest and extradite them to Burundi so that they could be brought before the east African nation’s jurisdictions.

"We have come here to denounce the report by the UN secretary general and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that are making ‘groundless’ statements," said Therence Ntahiraja, assistant to the home affairs minister.

"Why do those foreigners focus their attention on the process of reviewing our constitution?"

"It is the business of Burundian people.

"It is our sovereignty," said Ntahiraja.

The Burundian government on Wednesday accused the UN Refugee Agency of "deliberately fabricating" figures of Burundian refugees.

The UNHCR on Tuesday said in a statement that UNHCR and its partners launched an appeal for 391 million U.S. dollars to support 430,000 Burundian refugees this year, saying more cash is urgently needed to prevent it from becoming a forgotten crisis.

The UNHCR statement said that since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have fled Burundi, escaping human rights abuses, continued political uncertainty and the related humanitarian crisis.

It also said that refugee numbers are expected to increase by over 50,000 this year as regional efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country have not made significant progress.

Ntahiraja, the assistant to the Burundian home affairs minister said those saying Burundi is wrong by amending its constitution are "violating" the UN Charter that prohibits interference into internal affairs of a UN member state.

"There is also false news concerning the UNHCR that made a false prediction whereby it said some 50,000 Burundian citizens will flee the country this year.

"Can this be verified?

"Burundi is now enjoying peace and security," said the official.

Ntahiraja rejected such messages as "incendiary, wrong and erroneous."

Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent a report to the UN Security Council, criticizing the process of amending the Burundian constitution.

In the report, Guterres indicated that such a process should be conducted in an inclusive manner, with the participation of the opposition and civil society groups.

A 10-day combined voter registration for Burundi’s constitutional referendum and general elections due in 2020 started on Thursday.

The draft constitution extends the presidential term from five years provided for in the 2005 constitution to seven years and allows the president to serve two consecutive terms.

It also provides for the creation of a post of a prime minister and only one vice-president, whereas the 2005 constitution provided for two vice-presidents.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Voter registration starts for Burundi constitution referendum and elections

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Voter registration started Thursday across Burundi for the country’s constitutional referendum in May and its general elections in 2020.

The 10-day combined registration of voters will end on Feb. 17.

After registering, citizens are given receipts that will allow them to get voter cards.

According to the National Independent Electoral Commission, 3,828 registration centers will open for voter registration throughout the country.

In the capital city Bujumbura, however, few citizens reported to registration centers on Thursday.

In Nyakabiga zone near Bujumbura city center, most voter registration centers opened around 11 a.m., rather than the scheduled 7:30 a.m., due to what were described as "logistical problems."

"I have registered in order to be able to participate in the referendum on the constitution and in general elections due 2020," said Celestin Nsabimbona.

"I am very glad because this is a civic action.

Burundian First Vice-President Gaston Sindimwo also registered in Nyakabiga, his native neighborhood.

"I came here to register for the referendum on the constitution and also for general elections due in 2020," said Sindimwo.

"I have bought a ticket that will allow me to participate in a game or to watch a game.

"The ticket is very important."

He called on citizens and specifically leaders of political parties to be ready to participate in the race soon to start.

In December 2017, the electoral body said the referendum on the country’s constitution will be held in May.

The draft constitution extends the presidential term from five years provided for in the 2005 constitution to seven years and allows the president to serve two consecutive terms.

It also provides for the creation of a post of a prime minister and only one vice-president, whereas the 2005 constitution provided for two vice-presidents.
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Burundi denounces "fabricated" refugee figures by UNHCR

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- The Burundian government on Wednesday accused the UN Refugee Agency of "deliberately fabricating" figures of Burundian refugees.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) does not accept that some refugees have returned home from exile and boosts refugee figures to get jobs, said Therence Ntahiraja, assistant to the Burundian interior minister, when responding to UNHCR’s appeals for funds to support Burundian refugees in 2018.

UNHCR on Tuesday said in a statement that UNHCR and its partners launched an appeal for 391 million U.S. dollars to support 430,000 Burundian refugees this year, saying more cash was urgently needed to prevent it from becoming a forgotten crisis.

Since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have fled Burundi, escaping human rights abuses, continued political uncertainty and the related humanitarian crisis, said the statement.

It also said that refugee numbers are expected to increase by over 50,000 this year as regional efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country have not made significant progress.

Ntahiraja, however, described the figures of the refugees given by UNHCR as "lies."

"The UNHCR is claiming that over 430,000 Burundian refugees went into exile since 2015 and live in refugee camps.

"The figure is wrong because over 200,000 of them have already returned home," said Ntahiraja.
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Burundian president urges cohesion at anniversary of ethnic unity charter

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Monday called for more cohesion amongst Burundians to boost their well-being at the celebrations of the 27th anniversary of adoption of the Unity Charter.

Nkurunziza made the call in Gitega Town, Gitega Province, central Burundi.

The celebrations started with the laying of flowers on the unity memorial erected in the town.

They were also marked by cultural dances with the accompaniment of traditional songs and beaten drums.

Burundian citizens adopted the Unity Charter with 89 percent in a referendum on Feb. 5, 1991, when the three ethnic groups—Hutu, Tutsi and Twa—accepted to live in harmony.

Despite the adoption of the unity charter, one of the biggest crises broke out in 1993 with the assassination of the first democratically elected Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye, which sparked deadly violence between Hutu and Tutsi groups and a massive forced exile.

"Unity is a permanent shield to protect Burundi. We should all meditate and leave this place after understanding that unity is a shield against discrimination," said Nkurunziza when addressing a crowd of people in central Burundi.

"Love, solidarity development, joy and peace are gains from unity," said Nkurunziza.

He advised citizens to teach unity to their children.

According to him, the Burundian government has set up institutions whose main goal is to consolidate unity, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Commission on Lands and other Belongings, the National Council for National Unity and Reconciliation, the Ombudsman’s institution and so on.
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Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza warns against dividing country

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Sunday warned citizens against disrupting the country’s unity.

"Some citizens think that divisions can allow them access to some benefits.

"I assure them that all their ways are blocked," Nkurunziza in said a message to the nation, ahead of Monday’s 27th anniversary of adoption of the Unity Charter.

"I rather advise them to change their behavior," he said.

The anniversary of the adoption of the Unity Charter comes at a time when the east African nation is peaceful and its citizens united.

The president urged Burundians to consolidate unity through strengthening unity within their households.

"If households are united, then the country is united."

He also called for citizens’ patriotism, saying that when a country moves ahead, so do its citizens.

Burundi adopted the unity charter in a referendum On Feb. 5, 1991, when the country’s three main ethnic groups—Hutu, Tutsi and Twa—agreed to "live in harmony and avoid confrontations."

Despite the adoption of the unity charter, one of the biggest crises broke out in 1993 with the assassination of the first democratically elected Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye, which sparked deadly violence between Hutu and Tutsi groups and a massive forced exile.
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Burundi’s constitution amendment process
going well before referendum: minister

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- The campaign of explaining amendments to the Burundian constitution before a referendum in May 2018 is going on well, the east African country’s interior minister said here in a press conference on Thursday.

"The Burundian government appreciates how the campaign of explaining amendments brought to the Burundian constitution is going on nationwide. Reports from provinces and districts reveal that citizens progressively understand innovations contained in the draft constitution," said Burundian Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye.

In December 2017, the National Independent Electoral Commission said the referendum of the east African country’s constitution will be held in May.

The draft constitution extends the presidential term from five years provided in the 2005 constitution to seven years and allows the president to serve two consecutive terms.

It also provides the creation of a post of a prime minister and only one vice-president whereas the 2005 constitution provided two vice-presidents.

             

 

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