Neela Ghoshal undesirable in Burundi

By Landry Ninteretse

Burundian government has canceled work permit of Neela Ghoshal, Human Right Watch’s representative in Burundi and asked her to leave the country by June 5.

This decision follows the publication of a HRW’s report on pre-electoral violence last week describing violent clashes between rival youth wings including the ruling party CNDD-FDD and former rebel group FNL. The report urged the government to take strong measures to combat political violence and ensure peaceful conditions in this electoral period.

Augustin Sanze, minister of foreign affairs who took the decision to withdraw the work authorization of Neela Ghoshal explains in his letter that “the report deliberately omits the efforts of the Interior Ministry to prevent youth groups to use sport for political and pretends that population fears 2010 polls.” For the government, HRW’s report seems ignoring all the measures taken to ensure fair and transparent elections and can not tolerate no longer such reports.

However Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch Executive Director expressed its disappointment saying that “the report is based on meticulous on-the-ground research over several months, and it documents human rights abuses by all sides – not only the government or the ruling party.” He added that HRW stands behind the personal integrity and professional work of Neela Ghoshal, who for almost three years has documented human rights abuses in Burundi. “We hope to discuss this matter as soon as possible with the Burundian government to urge officials to reconsider the decision” said Kenneth Roth.

The announced discussions risk to be tough as the Burundian government has clearly expressed dissatisfaction over the work of UN representatives and human rights organisations’ publications on political situation on the ground. In December 2009, Youssef Mahmoud, former head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) was ordered to leave the country, accused of being close to opposition.

Several independent reports however have clearly showed that some local authorities, members of the ruling party, ordered the police to disrupt opposition party gatherings and block them from opening local offices. Civil society activists and reporters denouncing diverse abuses have also been harassed.

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