BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, April 29, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo follow with concern the situation in Burundi. Last Saturday, Belgium was one of the first countries to call for the respect of the public space and of human rights. Belgium condemns all forms of violence and intimidation against civilians, the political opposition and human rights activists. Those who commit violent acts or human rights violations will be personally held responsible.
Belgium pays particular attention to the involvement of the Burundi National Police. Together with the Netherlands our country has recently invested in the professionalization of the Burundian police. The task of the police is to protect the people and ensure that demonstrations can proceed peacefully.
In recent years, Belgium financed several projects in support of a free and professional press in Burundi. Freedom of opinion and freedom of the press are essential elements that should guide the electoral process. The Ministers express their concern about the restrictive measures taken against a number of independent radio stations and the use of social media via mobile data traffic. They demand that these measures be lifted as soon as possible.
These are very important elections for Burundi. Belgium gives its full support for these elections to be as peaceful and inclusive as possible. Belgium contributes significantly to the UN human rights office, where 14 human rights experts closely monitor the situation. They report to the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council. Their testimony and their reports are an important source of information in the case of irregularities. Through its development cooperation, Belgium also funds two Burundian NGOs with experience in election observation. In total, thanks to the Belgian support, some 8.000 observers can observe the election process throughout the country.
In a spirit of reconciliation, with the national interest in mind and with the Arusha Agreement as a guideline, Ministers Didier Reynders and Alexander De Croo call for a common understanding on the issues that divide the political class, opposition parties and civil society. Violence must be excluded by all political parties, actors and agencies. Only peaceful, inclusive and transparent elections organized in a spirit of tolerance and respect for the institutions can bring Burundi back to the path on which it has made so much progress since the signing of the Arusha Agreement.