Burundi: Roman Catholic Church breaks silence, calls for inclusive dialogue

Burundi Catholic Bishops

Burundi Catholic Bishops

The Roman Catholic Council of Bishops in Burundi has appealed to politicians to avoid plunging the troubled country into further turmoil but seek a negotiated solution to the political crisis.

In a statement released on Monday on the political crisis in the tiny East African state, the Council of Bishops said the country is at crossroads and urged especially the Christian politicians to meditate on where they are trying to lead the nation.
The Bishops said that since monarchy times, the country has been characterized by coup d’état s, ethnic conflicts, civil strifes and limited democracy which has greatly affected the conflict ridden country.

The chairman of the Roman Catholic Council of Bishops in Burundi Bishop Gervais Banshimiyubura said that consensual democracy based on a multiparty dispensation allowed Burundians to exercise their fundamental right to choose a political party of their choice.

“The consensual democracy, based on a multiparty system allowed good competitive elections, giving the people the opportunity to choose from several parties, the party with the best program. But now that some parties have been destroyed, others being prohibited to operate, what is the political system that we want to develop? What is the new way to access power,” wondered Bishop Banshimiyubura, who read the statement.

“Do we want the mode where people go to vote in protests or under the intimidation of a single party that will choose its satellites to accompany it? Would it be proved that Burundians have the option to return to the system of single party with power of life and death on them,” he asked.

He said that the Catholic Church believes the best and efficient answer to these questions can be found only through dialogue among politicians with a vision and love for the country and its citizens.

Although the Bujumbura government still maintain that the country is peaceful, the Bishops caution that it’s not possible to hide the strife among politicians.

“Even if those in power are struggling to convince the nation and the international community that everything is going on perfectly, it is not hard to notice the rivalry among politicians,” they said.

“What is even more worrying is that the lack of dialogue between the protagonists in the conflict is now causing persistent killings, with mass graves of missing people being discovered in several parts of the country “, said Bishop Banshimiyubusa, adding that this situation is resulting into more problems for Burundian people who have suffered more because of aid cuts by some of the country’s neighbors and the international community.

The Roman Catholic Council of Bishops also commended all efforts by various actors to help bring Burundian politicians to a negotiating table but regretted the refugee crisis the conflict has created with the number of Burundian refugees seeking refuge in neighboring states passing the 250,000 mark.

“This is the situation that we are experiencing whereby a part of the population left for exile while, among those who remain in the country, some of them feel secure while others continually live in fear, not feeling safe. Our citizens need to be re-assured so that they can feel they share the same destiny,” the Bishops said.

The strongly worded statement from the Bishops comes after months of silence following allegations made by the government that some leaders and organizations had taken sides in the conflict which contributed to the country’s destabilization.

The Roman Catholic Church in Burundi has been at loggerheads with the government, after Catholic Bishops took a firm stand against the third term bid for President Pierre Nkurunziza and the withdrawal of their priests in the 2015 electoral process, a process they considered less free and fair.