Burundi: President accused of stoking anti-LGBTIQ+ hate


President of Burudni, Évariste Ndayishimiye (Photo: Lukasz Kobus / European Commission)

Burundi’s President, Évariste Ndayishimiye, has come under sharp criticism from Human Rights Watch, the US and the EU for expressing support for the public execution of LGBTIQ+ individuals.

His controversial comments were made during a press conference on December 29, in response to questions about Western nations pressuring African countries to uphold LGBTIQ+ rights.

He declared, “For me, I think that if we find these people in Burundi, they should be taken to stadiums and be stoned, and doing so would not be a crime.”

Human Rights Watch reported that the president’s remarks quickly ignited a wave of supportive comments on social media, with further calls for violence against LGBTQ people. Activists expressed deep concern over the potential escalation of hostility and danger faced by the LGBTQ community in Burundi.

International Condemnation and Attempts to Clarify

In response to the controversial statement, the US State Department and European Union human rights official Eamon Gilmore condemned President Ndayishimiye’s remarks. Gilmore urged the Burundian government “to safeguard the inherent human rights of every Burundian” and emphasised that promoting violence against anyone is unacceptable.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller expressed in a statement that his country was “deeply troubled by President Ndayishimiye’s remarks targeting certain vulnerable and marginalised Burundians.”

Eamon Gilmore, a European Union human rights official, also called on the Burundian government “to safeguard the inherent human rights of every Burundian,” adding that “Promoting violence against anyone is unacceptable!”

The Burundian Embassy in Brussels attempted to clarify the president’s comments on 2 January, issuing a statement claiming that Ndayishimiye’s words had been “misinterpreted” and asserted that he never ordered the stoning of homosexuals.

Instead, the embassy argued that the president used “figures of speech and linguistic images by referring to the holy scriptures as the Bible to show the seriousness of these practices which are contrary to laws, values and cultural heritage of Burundi.”

History of Anti-LGBT Actions

Human Rights Watch highlighted President Ndayishimiye’s previous description of homosexuality as a “curse” and his signing of a law criminalising consensual same-sex relations in 2009. Under this law, individuals found guilty of adult consensual same-sex sexual relations can face up to two years in prison.

Commenting on the broader human rights crisis in Burundi, including political repression and restrictions on freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch researcher Clémentine de Montjoye remarked, “The crackdown on LGBT rights, which is being felt across the region, risks getting worse amidst Burundi’s broader human rights crisis.”

Montjoye emphasised that President Ndayishimiye, who presents himself as a progressive, rights-respecting leader, “should be working to reverse this trend rather than stoking more fear and hatred.”

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