So a couple of days ago I posted about a political arrest and insults to the Belgian ambassador, and I’ve managed to find out a bit more. Be aware that this is all hearsay as I can’t access the local media as it’s all in Kirundi, so I’m reliant on talking to people and trying to figure it out. It seems that the politician in question was Alexis Sinduhije, who is an opposition politician who will be running for President next year as part of a coalition of several opposition groups, is also a journalist and founder of Radio Publique Africaine, and in 2008 was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people. He is also supported by Bujumbura’s chattering classes, which include most of the Tutsi elite.
The crisis was precipitated when he reported plans by the ruling party to use ethnic violence to benefit them politically. The story may be true; it is plausible, and he claims to be able to prove it (but then, he would say that). But it’s also clear that this story will benefit him politically, and there is talk of someone filing a complaint against him. I honestly have no idea, but either way I would question the wisdom of broadcasting it – given the delicate state of Burundi’s ethnic relationships, it could stir up genuinely spontaneous violence from one side or the other, which is why I’m not recording the details. Having said that though, Sinduhije has a very strong record when it comes to ethnic issues – his radio station came into being as a way to disseminate non-ethnic news – and it seems unlikely that he would have made this up or broadcast it lightly.
Anyway, Sinduhije is not in gaol, as he refused to leave his house and the police weren’t stupid enough to kill him, so he was able to face them down and the government now claim it was for his protection. But it’s not a good sign and indicates that the election next year may be neither fair nor peaceful.
Posted By Laura Gordon
Posted Aug 7th, 2009