Civil Society Organisations in the EAC have petitioned the regional Assembly to urgently undertake specified number of actions within its mandate to contain the situation in the Republic of Burundi.
Representatives of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (EACSOF) Monday afternoon presented a petition to EALA Speaker, Rt. Hon Daniel F. Kidega at a brief ceremony at the Speaker’s Chambers in Arusha.
The Civil Society representatives are petitioning EALA among other things to make strong recommendation to the Summit of EAC Heads of State that the Republic of Burundi should not assume the rotating Chairmanship of the EAC until it resolves the political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country.
The petitioners further urge the House to call upon the Chair of the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union to take concrete steps towards preventing Burundi from descending into genocide or mass atrocities. Such measures the petition says include, enhancing the numbers and capacity of the Human Rights Monitors and Military monitors deployed to the country. They further call for the sanctions regime of the African Union to be activated.
The petition avers that EALA or a relevant committee within should immediately call for a public hearing in Arusha, Tanzania, that would welcome Burundian and East African citizens to testify to the occurrences in the country and to suggest proposals for resolution to the crises.
In addition to PALU (Principal Petitioner) and EACSOF, the Atrocities Watch Africa, Centre for Citizens’ Participation on the African Union, East Africa Law Society and the Kituo Cha Katiba append their signatures to the petition.
The petition states that there have been numerous reports of cases of assassinations, extra-judicial and arbitrary killings of over 130 persons and wants EALA to condemn what it terms arbitrary killings as well as the inordinate use of force by the police, security officials and members of a youth wing group, Imbonerakure.
The petitioners say that although the authorities in Burundi have ordered investigations into the killings, no single case has been concluded, citing the murder of the former head of intelligence Services, General Adolphe Nshimirimana.
“More recently, the arbitrary killing of the son of the eminent and award winning Human Rights Defender, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, who is himself under recovery after been shot, for which no investigations have been done, despite statements by the Government condemning the killings”, a section of the Petition reads.
The petitioners in addition, call on EALA to request the African Union to intervene in the political and humanitarian crisis citing its comprehensive and far reaching legal and institutional framework that includes the Constitutive Act of the African Union, 2000 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights amongst others.
The petition acknowledges the measures taken by various organs and Institutions of the EAC since the crisis started in February this year. They include three Extra-Ordinary Summits by the EAC Heads of State held on Burundi which took place on May 13, 2015, May 31, 2015 and June 6, 2015 – the latter of, which appointed the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to mediate in the crisis.
EAC citizens, including some of the petitioners, filed a case before the East African Court of Justice, in reference No. 2 of 2015: East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (EACSOF) vs. The Attorney General of Burundi and 2 others. According to the petitioners, the case requests the Court to ascertain whether the President of Burundi, could lawfully run for a third term in light of the relevant provisions of the Arusha peace and reconciliation agreement for Burundi (Arusha Accord) of 2000 and the Burundi Constitution of 2005.
The Reference No. 2 of 2015 was filed with an application for interim injunction whose citation is Application No. 5 of 2015 (arising from reference No. 2 of 2015) The East African Civil society srganizations’ forum (EACSOF) Vs the attorney general of the Republic of Burundi and 2 others. The application sought to injunct the elections of Burundi pending hearing and determination of the reference. The application was heard on 20th July, 2015 and a ruling was delivered on the same day denying the grant of an injunction.
“The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) on its part, participated in the joint East African Community (EAC) observation mission to the Burundi elections, though it is yet to deploy its mandate and powers, under the treaty for the establishment of the East African Community, to the deepening political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Burundi”, a section of the petition states.
The petitioners reiterate speedy responses to the situation in Burundi.
“Should the above measures not bear fruit within the next one month, the house (EALA) should call for suspension of the Burundi government from both the EAC and the AU,” the petition affirms in conclusion.
Under Rule 86 of the EALA rules of procedure, any citizen of the partner states, and nay natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a partner state shall have the right to address, individually or in association with other citizens or persons, a petition to the assembly on a matter which comes within the community’s fields of activities and which affects him, her or it directly.