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Burundi: Massive Political Rallies Continues Despite COVID-19 Outbreak

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The Burundian government insists that elections scheduled for next month will go ahead as planned.

Massive political rallies in Burundi have sparked health concerns amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, according to the BBC.

While Burundi has since closed its borders as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the political rallies being held ahead of the May elections threaten to undermine many of the preventive measures already in place.

However, the government insists that the national elections will continue as scheduled.

This past Monday, Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, kicked off their election campaign event in Gitega while the main opposition, the National Congress for Liberty, held theirs in Ngozi province.

While authorities have alleged that Burundians who attended the massive rallies were provided with buckets of water along with soap, it is unlikely that every individual was able to sanitise their hands.

Despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) having strongly recommended social distancing in the form of varying lockdowns, this is not the case in Burundi.

The country’s first-division Vital’O FC football team is still continuing with scheduled fixtures for the league.

National elections are set to take place next month on May 20th. However, in addition to the health concerns, there are also mounting safety concerns as reports of violence by security officials are on the increase. Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) says, “These elections will be accompanied by more abuses, as Burundian officials and members of the Imbonerakure are using violence with near-total impunity to allow the ruling party to entrench its hold on power.”

According to reports by Aljazeera, the HRW has documented killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and the harassment of perceived political opponents over the past six months.

Currently, there are 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Burundi with at least one reported death.

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