The Burundian government is seeking the extradition from Rwanda of four Burundian journalists working for several private media institutions, including Radio Isanganiro and Radio-TV Renaissance.
Also wanted is Patrick Nduwimana, director of Bonesha FM Radio. The request was reportedly made by the Burundian prosecutor general in a letter to the Rwandan Minister of Justice.
The Burundian government launched a crackdown on independent media after the May 13 failed coup attempt, accusing them of supporting the protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to run for a third term. Critics said he was violating the constitution’s two-term limit as well as an agreement that ended Burundi’s 12-year civil war.
President Nkurunziza eventually did run for and win a third five year term in office after a constitutional court ruled in his favor. However, unrest and violent confrontations have continued.
Patrick Nduwimana said the independent Burundian media has never taken sides in the Burundian crisis.
“They (the government) claimed that we have been involved or we are linked to the coup that took place in May, but all this is just nonsense. If we have put on air in our media the statement of the general who proclaimed the coup against Nkurunziza, this does not mean that we were linked to the plan of the coup. We did it as journalists; this is our job; that was a fact; that was the event which happened that time and we just broadcast the statement. So this cannot be the reason or justification for the government hunt and even want to kill journalists,” he said.
Nduwimana said the journalists fled to Rwanda because their safety was not guaranteed in Burundi, and the Rwandan government granted them and thousands of other Burundians asylum in line with international humanitarian law. As such, he said Burundian authorities have no right to ask for their extradition.
Also Sunday, the U.S. government urged its citizens to leave Burundi amid deadly clashes involving the military and police. More than 80 people were killed Friday when armed attackers raided army facilities in the capital Bujumbura.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said this past weekend that “high-level political dialogue” needs to begin immediately between the government and the opposition to try and defuse the situation or else things could “devolve into mass violence.”
The U.S. State Department said it has ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. officials and the families of personnel.
Nduwimana said the Nkurunziza government should be charged with crimes against humanity.
“There were allegations or reports that an armed group which attacked three military sites or bases in the capital, Bujumbura. After that, police and government militia and some soldiers went into neighborhoods killing young people who were not armed. They rounded them up and shot them. They were not involved in the attack. I think the Burundi of today is guilty of crimes against humanity,” he said.
Nduwimana said the international community should do more to further isolate the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza. He said the United Nations Security Council should stop issuing resolutions that are not backed by action.
The article was published on Voice of America.