1. 'Angel of Burundi' denies alleged role in grenade attacks

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Marguerite Barankitse

    Award-winning Burundian humanitarian worker Marguerite Barankitse has denied any role in recent deadly attacks in the country's economic and political capitals.

    A series of grenade attacks on Gitega and Bujumbura earlier this week claimed the lives of four people and injured more than 100, security officials said.

    Ms Barankitse, who has been nicknamed "the angel of Burundi" for adopting thousands of children displaced by war over the years, was accused by the state prosecutor of planning what he described as terrorist acts.

    "The allegations seek to scare me and discourage my charitable activities, but I am not afraid. I am standing tall," Ms Barankitse told the BBC Great Lakes service.

    She now lives as a refugee in neighbouring Rwanda.

    Also named as suspects were former journalist Alexis Sinduhije and François Nyamoya. They're in exile and leading the Movement for Solidarity and Democracy opposition party.

    Mr Nyamoya said the allegations were baseless and politically motivated.

    Burundi has issued international arrest warrants for all three.

    Early this year, Ms Barankitse and former army officers, journalists and activists in exile were sentenced in absentia to life for taking part in the 2015 failed coup that plunged Burundi into crisis.

    Ms Barankitse, who is a critic of Burundi's government, said she played no part in the unsuccessful putsch.

  2. Francine Niyonsaba gets heroic welcome in Burundi

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Francine Niyonsaba waving to crowds
    Image caption: Francine Niyonsaba (pictured) said she runs to "make sport a better place and inspire others"

    Burundians gathered at the country's main airport on Wednesday in Bujumbura to welcome back Francine Niyonsaba after a series of successful competitions in the US and Europe.

    Jubilant crowds brushed off security concerns following Monday's deadly grenade attack in the city.

    Niyonsaba, carrying the 5,000m winner's cup, said she was overwhelmed by the support.

    “I did the extraordinary, and I now feel like an extraordinary person in the world”, she said.

    Last week at the Continental Tour Gold in Zagreb, the 28-year-old set a world record for the 2,000m, clocking five minutes 21.56 seconds.

    The time was two seconds faster than that the indoor record set by Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba.

    Niyonsaba - who is an 800m Olympics silver medallist - is among several athletes banned from competing in races between 400m and 1,500m because of naturally high levels of testosterone.

    At the airport people from her native eastern Ruyigi province held a board that read “people from Ruyigi welcome you and are happy, you made our country and province proud.”

  3. At least three killed in blasts in Burundian city

    BBC World Service

    At least three people have been killed and dozens injured in a series of explosions in Burundi's economic capital, Bujumbura, reports say.

    Witnesses said at least two grenades exploded in a bus parking area, causing panic.

    A third explosion targeted a market and a fourth grenade exploded near a packed bus in the suburbs.

    It comes a day after a deadly grenade explosion in a bar in the Burundian capital, Gitega, and a mortar attack at Bujumbura airport on Saturday, which a rebel group (RED-Tabara) said it carried out.

  4. Burundi human rights worsen under new president - UN

    Mary Harper

    Africa editor, BBC World Service

    Evariste Ndayishimiye at his swearing in ceremony
    Image caption: The UN report said security forces enjoy "widespread impunity" for their actions, according to the AFP news agency

    The United Nations says the human rights situation in Burundi has deteriorated since current President Evariste Ndayishimiye took office last year.

    UN investigators said conditions had worsened for opposition parties, journalists and civil society groups despite the easing of some restrictions.

    They said opposition supporters have been detained, tortured and arrested.

    Some have disappeared.

    Mr Ndayishimiye pledged to end repression when he came to power last year following the sudden death of former President Pierre Nkurunziza.

  5. Burundi president condemned for criticism of journalist

    Burundi's President, Evariste Ndayishimiye, has been condemned for his verbal attack against a journalist who covered the Covid-19 situation in the country.

    The president had said Esdras Ndikumana, who reports for French broadcaster RFI, was tarnishing Burundi's image with his coverage.

    Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said these "serious and dangerous remarks" were "a sad reminder of the fragility of press freedom in Burundi".

    RFI described the president's accusations as "unfounded and absurd".

    RSF's Africa head Arnaud Froger urged the president "not to make the wrong enemy" adding that he should be "fighting the epidemic rather than journalists".

    There have been concerns about media freedom in the past in Burundi.

  6. Burundi's judiciary lambasted over corruption

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC News

    President Evariste Ndayishimiye
    Image caption: President Evariste Ndayishimiye took office last year

    The president of Burundi has lambasted the judiciary for being so corrupt, saying that thousands of cases remain unresolved.

    President Evariste Ndayishimiye told a gathering of senior officials from the justice ministry that he had come before them to shed tears on behalf of the people.

    "Don’t you feel pity for me when I am crying before you?"

    He said he had received scores of complaints from across Burundi about the broken system, with some people taking the law into their own hands.

    Cases were often pending for years, the president said.

    Corruption in the judiciary was also deterring foreign investors, he added.

    Critics say the executive should take some responsibility for addressing the problems of inefficiency and graft within the judiciary.

    Human rights organisations have in the past blamed the country’s poor human rights record on the corruption in the judiciary.

  7. Burundi allows Covid jabs but won't encourage them

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Ruling party supporters receive hand sanitisers in Gitega, central Burundi, in April 2020
    Image caption: The health authorities say the government will not mobilise people to be vaccinated

    Burundi has agreed to receive Covid jabs, but the government says it will not urge people to get vaccinated, the health minister has said.

    Dr Thaddée Ndikumana told reporters that the vaccines were proposed by the World Bank and they took decision “to welcome them".

    He said the government will not mobilise people to be vaccinated, that only those who need it could go seek the jab.

    Burundian authorities have been sceptical about the vaccines - and previously said they would monitor how effective they are elsewhere before agreeing to let them in.

    The minister on Thursday evening confirmed reports of Covid cases rise in the northern provinces, bordering Rwanda and in the economic capital Bujumbura.

    For that reason, he said, they would open treatment centres in those affected regions.

    Burundi has so far reported nearly 6,000 Covid cases and and eight deaths since the pandemic began in country in March 2020 - records that some have questioned.

  8. DR Congo and Burundi ink deal on trade and security

    Emery Makumeno

    BBC News, Kinshasa

    A commercial building in Bujumbura
    Image caption: Both countries want to boost economic growth

    East African neighbours Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have announced a joint plan to combat armed groups and foster economic growth.

    The presidents of both nations signed a series of agreements in Kinshasa on security and also infrastructure - with plans for a railway to connect the nation's major cities and boost trade.

    No cost and deadline were made public today for the projects - but a joint commission of experts who will oversee its progress was announced.

    Tuesday's visit to Kinshasa was the first made by Burundi's President Évariste Ndayishimiye since he took power a year ago, following the sudden death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza.

  9. Friendly visits helps thaw Burundi-Rwanda tensions

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Rwanda's prime minister has visited Bujumbura to cerebrate the 59th anniversary of Burundi’s independence in a significant move to normalise the two countries’ relations after six years of tensions.

    Burundi and Rwandan authorities fell out in May 2015 as the former accused the latter of a hand in a foiled coup against the late president Pierre Nkurunziza.

    Both countries’ social media users welcomed the presence of Rwanda’s PM Edouard Ngirente in Burundi as a mark of political will to end the dispute.

    View more on twitter

    Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi have recently expressed their wishes to end hostilities, that included military confrontations.

    Cross-border trade and the movement of people were hugely affected by the row that now looks to be easing after six years.

  10. Burundi human rights activist freed from jail

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    A man shows a photograph of Germain Rukuki during a demonstration

    Burundian human rights activist Germain Rukuki was freed on Wednesday afternoon after spending four years in prison, his lawyer told the BBC Great Lakes.

    Mr Rukuki was sentenced in 2018 to 32 years in jail on charges that included threatening state security and being part of an insurrection during protests in 2015 against former President Pierre Nkurunziza.

    He denied the charges.

    Last week, a court of appeal in the city of Bujumbura reduced the sentence to one year - opening the path to his release.

    Last December, President Evariste Ndayishimiye pardoned four journalists who had spent a year in prison for ‘undermining state security’ under his predecessor, charges that they denied.

    After a year on power, President Ndayishimiye has been praised for positive moves toward human rights, freedom of press and reviving the country’s international relations.

    But opposition in the country and international rights defenders deplore ongoing rights violations and political intolerance.

  11. Gunmen kill 15 and torch minibuses in Burundi

    Will Ross

    Africa editor, BBC World Service

    A map showing Muramvya province in Burundi

    At least 15 people have been killed in central Burundi, local media report.

    The attack on Saturday evening was in Muramvya province, where 12 people died in a similar attack in May.

    According to eyewitnesses, gunmen blocked a road with large stones under cover of darkness and then shot at the vehicles.

    Two minibuses were set ablaze.

    Several wounded passengers were taken to hospitals.

    Burundi’s interior ministry described the attack as terrorism. It is not clear who was behind it.

  12. EU to lift restrictions on Burundi

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye (R) attends the inauguration of the new Kisumu port with an oil loading jetty at Lake Victoria in Kisumu, Kenya, on May 31, 2021
    Image caption: President Evariste Ndayishimiye has made efforts to restore external relations

    The European Union is in the process of removing financial restrictions on Burundi, the president’s office has said.

    In 2016, the EU suspended direct financial support to the Burundian government over human rights violations after the unrest that followed the failed coup of 2015.

    Since 2020, under current President Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi has made efforts to restore rights and foreign relations, and had approached the EU to lift the ban.

    The decision to lift the ban on restrictions was communicated to Burundi’s president when he met the EU delegates on Monday in the political capital, Gitega, the Burundian presidency announced on Twitter.

    The EU's representative in Burundi, Claude Bochu, said that this was "a starting process to lift the ban on Burundi".

    But different rights groups on Monday wrote a petition to the EU deploring “widespread impunity for past and ongoing serious human rights violations” in the country.

  13. Burundi to lift ban on BBC broadcasts

    Prime Ndikumagenge

    BBC Great Lakes

    Burundi's media regulatory body has announced the BBC can resume operations in the country two years after it was banned.

    “There are no more obstacles for the BBC to operate in Burundi," acting chairman Lurent Kagimbi of the National Communication Council (CNC) said.

    "However, the BBC will need to submit a request to obtain a new operation licence because its licence was withdrawn," he added.

    The BBC World Service was banned in March 2019 following a BBC Eye documentary that exposed secret detention and torture sites run by the country’s security services.

    The government of late President Pierre Nkurunziza dismissed and condemned the documentary, aired in December 2018, before eventually banning the BBC more than three months later.

    It was prevented from broadcasting in Burundi as well as reporting from the country.

    Other media organisations, including the Voice of America, were also banned in relation to their coverage of the 2015 violence following the controversial decision by Mr Nkurunziza go for a third term in office.

    A number of them have reopened since President Evariste Ndayishimiye came to power nearly a year ago.

    He directed the media regulator to hold discussions with all proscribed media groups so that they could resume operations.

  14. Row in Burundi over Muslim morning prayer call

    Bernard Bankukira

    BBC Great Lakes

    Muslims in Burundi pray outside a mosque
    Image caption: The minister asked Muslim clerics to keep the volume down for the morning call for prayers

    Muslim leaders in Burundi have disowned a cleric's criticism against the interior minister after he asked that sheikhs keep the volume down for the morning call to prayer so as not to disrupt the public.

    Interior Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca had also asked religious leaders to stop holding noisy night prayers.

    The minister made the request during a meeting with inter-religious leaders.

    In response, during one morning prayer, Ndikumana Rashid was heard slamming the minister asking him to withdraw and apologise for his remarks.

    Mr Rashid said the minister's comments were an open attack against Islam.

    Muslim representatives have however said that it considered the cleric's comments as an insult to the minister.

    The head of the Muslim Assembly in Burundi Zuberi Mohamed said there was no conflict between Muslims and the government adding that there was no law stopping them from calling for prayers as usual.

    He said the minister's remarks were "unlikely to ignite religious violence as Burundian Muslims are good-willed people".

  15. Former Burundi first lady eulogises Nkurunziza

    Samba Cyuzuzo

    BBC Great Lakes

    Former Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his wife Denise
    Image caption: Former Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza died on 8 June 2020

    Former Burundi first lady Denise Bucumi has eulogised her husband, one year since he died, saying he "left a good legacy".

    Pierre Nkurunziza died on 8 June 2020 after what the government said was heart complications.

    Mrs Nkurunziza said on Tuesday that her husband "went in peace" adding that the family had been touched by testimonies given by members of the public.

    The former president remains a controversial figure in Burundi, critics say his administration oversaw extrajudicial killings, rights violations, cracked down against the opposition and ruined Burundi's economy, sinking many into poverty.

    He is however praised by supporters who gave him the title “supreme guide to patriotism”.

    Nkurunziza is also remembered for downplaying Covid-19, saying once that “God has cleared it out of Burundi's sky”.

    His successor Evariste Ndayishimiye changed the policy and declared to fight the virus, saying it was “number one enemy”.

  16. Burundi president starts visit to Kenya

    Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye has arrived in Kenya for a two-day visit.

    This is Mr Ndayishimiye's sixth foreign visit in less than a year in power.

    His predecessor, the late Pierre Nkurunziza, only left Burundi once during his last term in office when he went by road to neighbouring Tanzania.

    Mr Ndayishimiye's visit to Kenya was an “opportunity to strengthen brotherhood relations between Burundians and Kenyans”, his spokesperson said in a statement.

    Since winning the presidency in June 2020, Mr Ndayishimiye has been keen to revive diplomatic relations after Burundi isolated itself following a coup attempt in May 2015.

    Early this month, the president visited Uganda, another member of the East African Community bloc.

    The bloc is riddled with tensions between members and its current chairman, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, seems intent on solving some of the rows.

    Mr Ndayishimiye is accompanied by First Lady Angeline Ndayubaha on the trip and they are scheduled to attend Kenya’s Madaraka Day celebrations on Tuesday - marking the day Kenya attained internal self-rule - in the western town of Kisumu.

    State House in Kenya tweeted photos of their arrival:

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