Internet Blackout For Burundians Amidst Protests Against The President’s Bid For 3rd Term

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Internet Blackout For Burundians Amidst Protests Against The President’s Bid For 3rd Term

Burundi is currently undergoing turbulent political times. The rest of the African continent and the World at large hopes that this turmoil will not erode away all the work in progress the country has had since the end of ethnic sparked civil war. That left at least 300,000 dead in a country of only 10 million people.

The 12-year-long civil war came to an end in 2005 after the signing of the Arusha peace deal and the formation of a national army that absorbed rival factions and operating as one united army. But fears are emerging the country could slip back into its dark history of ethnic war and forceful eviction of individual from their home and a widespread onslaught of people from different ethnic groups.

The country is scheduled to carry out its presidential elections come June 26th, 2015. The current President, Pierre Nkurunziza, who is serving his second term in office, has expressed interest in running for a third term.

Much like its neighbor Rwanda, Burundi is made up of two prominent and different ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis. The current president was a former Hutu ethnic group rebel commander who was handpicked by lawmakers into office after the signing of the Arusha peace deal; that is how he got his first term into office. His second term he was elected to office and now he wants a third term basing on the argument that he has only been elected once into the office and thus not barred from being elected twice to office. Saying his first term, where he was picked and not elected does not count.

The move by Nkurunziza has elicited a strong opposition especially from political leaders from the other ethnic groups. Who argue he has already served his two terms in office as President, and the Constitution bars him from holding another term as President.

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Nkurunziza’s quest for a third term in office has sparked protests, with protesters coming out into the streets of the capital Bujumbura and taking to social media. In return the Nkurunziza administration, which has termed the protest as “insurrection.” Has allegedly cut off the public from some internet services such as Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Viber. This has been allegedly done through a section of internet service providers.

AccessNow, a global human rights group has written to the United Nations and the African Union to ensure the Burundi government does not clamp down freedom of expression.

In a letter to the UN and AU, AccessNow wrote: “Blocking access to the internet, or application on the internet such as social media, violates the right to freedom of expression by denying the right of person to seek, receive, and impart information.

Shutdowns frequently occur during periods of civil unrest, directly impacting the right to association. As a result, shutdowns often precede and enable egregious human rights violations because journalists and witnesses are unable to effectively report on repressive actions by state and non-state actors.”

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One popular local station, which was believed to be fueling the protest has since been also shut down. The station has been faulted for continuously and extensively airing the on-going protests, and the administration was not particularly pleased with that act. The shutdown of the said local station has been confirmed by AccessNow.

Shutdowns, sometimes called ‘network interference,’ often entail the blocking or throttling of internet access, SMS, and telephone call traffic. They are carried out by telecommunications companies in response to government demands,” AccessNow further wrote.

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