I think the “demonstrations” in Burundi have lost meaning or we are using a wrong term to characterize what’s happening in Burundi. Is it demonstrations, riots or civil war?

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Demonstrations are a type of speech. Some Burundians are making their statement, right or wrong statement, through demonstrations. However, unlike in other countries where most people engage in legitimate demonstration, there are very serious human rights violations the demonstrators are involved in, which risk making demonstrations in Burundi illegitimate:

(a) Demonstrators and/or organizers of demonstrations in Burundi do not seem to know that children cannot be part of demonstrations where violence is reasonably foreseeable or where violence inevitable; that’s what it means to be a minor. In any case, there exist a legal duty to keep children away from criminal acts, including riots. The children must be protected. A big majority of demonstrators in Burundi appear to be children. That kind of child endangerment has no place in democracy . Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many human rights defenders and advocates reproaching the demonstrators. Where are the international organizations for the protection of children? Who enlists these children for demonstrations? Who arms these children with dangerous weapons? Who feeds these children as they ” demonstrate”? Which statement are these children making? Where are human rights defenders in Burundi? Why don’t civilized countries speak out against this absurd phenomenon ? Should the government of Burundi look on?

(b) There is nothing like an armed ” demonstrator”. Most Burundi demonstrators are seen in possession of different dangerous weapons on the streets. Isn’t government justified to arrest these armed ” demonstrators”?

(c) Demonstrators do not destroy property and they cannot commit the type of crimes so many Burundian demonstrators are seen committing, including burning to death suspected government agents. I think organizers of these demonstrations had better watch out. Isn’t government obligated to use force against these ” demonstrators”?

(d) The demonstrators are reported to have kidnapped a police officer. The demonstrators want the government to release 7 demonstrators that were arrested in return for the kidnapped police officer. While police has aright to arrest and detain a person in accordance with the law, demonstrators have no such right. This is pure criminality.

I think the “demonstrations” in Burundi have lost meaning or we are using a wrong term to characterize what’s happening in Burundi. Is it demonstrations, riots or civil war?

The international community ought to ascertain what’s happening in Burundi for better understanding of Burundi police response.

Dr Charles Kambanda

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