1. Serbia ending visa-free travel for Burundians

    Mark Pivac

    BBC World Service Newsroom

    Hosted by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Austrian Prime Minister Karl Nehammer and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban meet to discuss the fight against irregular migrants and illegal immigration in the capital Belgrade, Serbia
    Image caption: Serbia faces EU criticism that the country is a backdoor into the bloc for migrants

    Serbia is introducing visas for Tunisian and Burundian citizens, responding to EU criticism that the country is a backdoor into the bloc for migrants.

    Turks and Indians are expected to join them shortly.

    In October, the EU Commission said it would consider suspending Serbia’s own visa-waiver rights to the bloc if it failed to curtail migrants using it as a gateway to the European Union.

    President Aleksandar Vucic held talks with Austrian and Hungarian leaders on Wednesday, when he agreed to deploy more police resources along Serbia’s southern border, a major route for undocumented migrants.

  2. Burundians stranded as state bars Serbia travel

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi authorities have banned citizens from going to Serbia even when they have a passport and visa.

    Hundreds of Burundians have recently been stranded at airports in Turkey and Qatar after the authorities there asked them to produce Serbian visas, some have told the BBC.

    Burundi and Serbia signed a visa-free agreement in June which has led to thousands of Burundians buying air tickets to Serbia. Once in the non-European Union nation many travelled west, mainly to Belgium.

    On Sunday, Burundi's interior ministry said nearly 200 citizens were being repatriated home.

    “Burundians with ordinary passports and visas are prohibited from departing to Serbia from Bujumbura airport, also through neighbouring countries," the ministry said on Twitter.

    One Burundi woman without a visa to Serbia is stranded in Turkey with her two children aged three and one.

    “It’s been more than a week here. I used about 30 million francs (about $15,000; £13,250).

    “Many sold all their properties hoping to get a life in Europe. Where do we go once back?” she told the BBC.

    The Burundian authorities have discouraged people from using all their resources to raise money to travel to Europe. It has urged for investment in "self-development activities in Burundi”.

    But some say the migration will continue "even more" if the government "does not create jobs and give opportunity to all regardless their political affiliation or tribe", a Twitter user responded.

  3. Tanzania urges UN nations to back Burundi repatriations

    Alfred Lasteck

    BBC News, Dar es Salaam

    Tanzania is seeking assistance from the international community and humanitarian agencies to repatriate more than 120,000 Burundian refugees.

    They currently live in two camps in western Tanzania's Kigoma region near the Burundi border.

    While humanitarians say conditions there may be better than at home, there have been allegations by rights groups and the UN that Burundian refugees have suffered abuses including arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances at the hands of Tanzanian officers in cooperation with Burundian authorities.

    Neither country has commented on those allegations.

    Speaking at a UN refugee agency meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday, Tanzania’s internal affairs minister Hamad Masauni said Burundi needed support to encourage and facilitate voluntary repatriation.

    "In order for this plan to be successful, all has to be restored in Burundi. The most important thing is to support Burundi and make it a favourite for those who seek refuge in Tanzania,” he said.

    In 2006 and 2007, Tanzania granted citizenship to 160,000 Burundian refugees.

  4. Eight-fold rise in Burundians seeking Belgium asylum

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundians gather under a flag in Cibitoke, on June 22, 2015 one of the neighbourhood in the capital B
    Image caption: Burundi is a former Belgian colony

    The number of Burundian asylum seekers arriving in Belgium through Serbia have drastically increased, overwhelming reception centres, authorities say.

    Hundreds of Burundians are reportedly sleeping on roads and public parks in Brussels as they wait to be processed.

    Josephine Nkunzimana is one of Belgium's residents from Burundi who are offering basic needs for her compatriots “after an exhausting journey that takes them to cross more than five countries to arrive here”, she tells BBC Great Lakes.

    Belgian authorities recorded 263 asylum seekers from Burundi in July, up from just 34 in May and 112 in June. This is eight times more than the previous three months, the Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique reports.

    The paper quotes Dirk Van den Bulck, the Belgian commissioner for refugees, as saying that Burundian nationals do not need a visa to enter Serbia and once there, “they enter European territory via Romania”.

    In June, the Burundian parliament ratified agreements on different sectors with the Serbian government.

    Burundi, a former Belgian colony, is the poorest country in the world according to the World Bank’s GDP per capita report.

    Most travellers are young people seeking a better life abroad with Belgium giving them hope as 96% of the Burundian asylum cases were accepted last year.

    “But it is hard this time as many can be denied, [because] refugees from Ukraine are prioritised,” Mrs Nkunzimana says.

    Media in Burundi cite ONLCT, a local anti-illegal migrant organisation, urging the government to manage its deal with Serbia so “it doesn’t cause problems” for Europe.

  5. Burundi vexed by drum use in Uganda festival

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC News, Great Lakes

    Elite drummers perform for tourists at Gishora Drum Sanctuary in Gishora, Burundi,
    Image caption: Ritual drumming is venerated in Burundi culture

    Burundi's ministry of culture has expressed displeasure over what it describes as the “misuse of Burundian sacred drum” at the Nyege Nyege music festival which concludes on Momday in neighbouring Uganda.

    The ministry posted its message on Twitter alongside widely shared pictures of two male performers dancing suggestively with female revellers near the venerated drum.

    They called the image an "exploitation" of Burundi's royal drumming heritage, which was recognised by Unesco in 2017.

    “We will never tolerate anyone who violates Burundian culture and customs... any offender will be prosecuted for penalties provided by law," the post said.

    Ritual drumming in Burundi is performed during national or local feasts and to welcome important visitors, and is said to awaken the spirits of the ancestors and drive out evil spirits, according to Unesco.

    Its performers are recruited from across the country, many of whom are the descendants of drum sanctuary guards.

    It is not yet clear whether the government of Burundi will sue the drum performers at the Nyege Nyege festival.

    It is however not the first time that Burundi authorities have issued similar warnings to drum performers in foreign countries.

    It is also not the first time that the Nyege Nyege festival has attracted controversy.

    Uganda's authorities threatened to ban the four-day festival before it opened claiming that it was a "breeding ground for sexual immorality" and "homosexuality".

    Some 12,000, including 5,000 foreign tourists, have attended the event which is being held at the scenic Itanda Falls on the banks of the River Nile, AFP news agency reports.

    Read more: Sell-out crowd at 'immoral' Ugandan music festival

  6. 'Women should be allowed to do anything a man can do'

    DJ Edu

    Presenter of This Is Africa on BBC World Service

    Iry Tina

    It’s not easy being a female musician in Burundi.

    Apart from the difficult years the country has been through, with wars and coups and attempted coups, Burundians are conservative and tend to disapprove of women flaunting themselves in skimpy clothes and having visible tattoos.

    Iry Tina has encountered her fair share of judgement, and even had one of her earlier videos banned.

    But now, she tells me, she has managed to gain acceptance and people in Burundi love her music.

    Quote Message: I tried my best, you know, it’s fighting to change people’s minds, show them that we are doing nothing wrong, we are making them happy, we are promoting our country, and getting close to them and telling them what we are doing and why we are doing it.
    Quote Message: I think women should be allowed to do anything a man can do.”

    Surprisingly perhaps, Iry Tina says taking part in beauty pageants allowed her to speak up for women’s rights and advocate for a change of attitude:

    “I was the first Burundian to be in those international pageants, at first my voice wasn’t that big, so those pageants helped a lot.”

    Iry Tina’s musical career also received a big boost from the time she spent in Uganda, mixing with Ugandan artists and benefitting from the more developed music industry in Kampala.

    Iry Tina had to work hard, including learning both English and Luganda.

    She has released songs in Luganda but now is trying to focus on Kirundi lyrics with a Uganda influenced vibe.

    She also has a company which has a studio and arranges concerts for artists visiting Burundi and which hopes to take Burundian artists on tour very soon.

    You can hearDJ Edu’s conversation with Iry Tina on This is Africa this Saturday, on BBC World Service radio and partner stations across Africa, as well as online here.

  7. Burundi president sacks PM after coup claim

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi Parliament
    Image caption: The ruling CNDD–FDD party enjoys an overwhelming majority in parliament

    Burundi's president has sacked Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni days after he claimed unnamed "powerful people" were plotting a coup against him.

    In a unanimous vote in parliament on Wednesday morning, all 113 ruling MPs voted in favour of President Évariste Ndayishimiye's proposal to dismiss Mr Bunyoni.

    No reasons were given for the dismissal during the half-an-hour session.

    President Ndayishimiye said last week that he would defeat the people plotting against him.

    Current Interior Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca has been named as the new prime minister.

    He is a former rebel commander, police commissioner and army general.

  8. Coup speculation grips Burundi

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Évariste Ndayishimiye
    Image caption: Évariste Ndayishimiye has been president since 2020

    Speculation continues in Burundi about who President Évariste Ndayishimiye was referring to after he warned that "powerful people" in his government were planning a coup.

    In remarks last week before a ruling party meeting in the economic capital Bujumbura, Mr Ndayishimiye cautioned that he “would defeat” any plot against him.

    “Is there a general who would fear someone [plotting] a coup? Who is that person?”, the president, a retired army general, asked.

    No official announcement followed his remarks, and it is not clear who among the high-ranking officials he was referring to.

    Burundians online have filled the information gap with speculation, even naming the people they think the president was speaking about.

    Mr Ndayishimiye became president in 2020 after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza, who had governed the country for 15 years, died in office.

    Since independence in 1962, Burundi has had four successful coups, several have been foiled, and one presidential assassination.

    A failed coup in 2015 plunged the country into deadly unrest.

  9. Rwandan musician arrested in Burundi over alleged fraud

    BBC Great Lakes

    Bruce Melodie

    A Rwandan music star was on Wednesday arrested in Burundi's economic capital, Bujumbura, and accused of fraud, the authorities have said.

    Bruce Melodie had scheduled concerts in Bujumbura for Friday and Saturday.

    Melodie is accused of not returning money to a local music investor when his concert in Bujumbura was cancelled in 2018, local media reports.

    The musician is yet to comment on the allegations.

    A Burundian musician, Jean-Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, says the money issue should have been resolved in talks because it might escalate.

    “This [arrest] could cause a diplomatic incident between the two countries which were far in negotiations,” Kidum told the BBC Great Lakes service.

    The Burundian and Rwandan authorities have been in negotiations to rebuild relationships after several years of diplomatic strain that has at times turned into incidents of military confrontation.

  10. A poet in a Burundi war zone, part 2

    Video content

    Video caption: JP Bimeni is a writer turned soul singer who walked through a massacre unscathed

    JP Bimeni is a writer turned soul singer who walked through a massacre unscathed as his country fell into conflict. At just 16 he had a lot more living, and almost dying, to do.

  11. A poet in a Burundi war zone, part 1

    Video content

    Video caption: JP Bimeni risked his life to save a book of his verse

    JP Bimeni risked his life to save a book of his verse as the country was collapsing into ethnic conflict.

  12. Mystery over murder of Burundi refugee in Mozambique

    Jose Tembe

    BBC News, Maputo

    Selemane Masiya
    Image caption: Selemane Masiya was stabbed in his home in Nampula

    A refugee from Burundi has been murdered in Mozambique – the reason for his killing is unclear.

    The head of the refugee association in the country said he hoped the authorities would unravel the mystery around Selemane Masiya’s death.

    He was stabbed in his home on Thursday in the city of Nampula.

    “It is too premature to associate this act with political persecution. But, we want to believe that the hard work of the competent authorities will be able to have more information and that the criminals can, in fact, be held criminally responsible,” the association said.

  13. Video content

    Video caption: DRC: What’s causing the conflict?

    Violence in the eastern part of the DR Congo has escalated in recent months, reporter Joice Etutu explains why.

  14. Video content

    Video caption: Women's Afcon: Four players you should look out for

    The Women's Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Morocco on 2 July.

  15. Al-Shabab base raid: Burundi says 10 soldiers killed

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundian soldiers in Somalia in 2017
    Image caption: After Uganda, Burundi is the biggest contributor to the AU force in Somalia

    Burundi's army says that 10 of its soldiers in the African Union force in Somalia were killed when al-Shabab Islamist militants attacked its camp in the Middle Shabelle region.

    An army spokesperson said five other soldiers were missing and 25 were injured.

    “Twenty terrorists of al-Shabab group were also killed” in heavy fighting during the attack, the army statement added.

    The insurgents say they killed 173 Burundians and took full control of the army base.

    A high-ranking officer in Burundi’s army was cited by the AFP news agency as saying that 30 soldiers had died during the attack.

    Burundi is one of the largest contributors to the AU force.

    Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti also have soldiers in the mission that began 15 years ago.