, Nairobi, Kenya, Dec 12 – Burundi’s government has launched a fundraising drive for elections in 2020, presented as “voluntary” but condemned by rights groups as “organised robbery”.
Western electoral aid was cut in 2015 when Burundi was plunged into crisis as President Pierre Nkurunziza sought and went on to win a controversial third term.
Between 500 and 2,000 people are estimated to have died in the ensuing turmoil, according to varying tolls.
The government launched on Monday the contribution campaign for the next round of polls, calling on people “fulfil this highly patriotic duty”.
The government adopted a plan in October to revise the constitution that, if voted in by a referendum slated for early 2018, would allow Nkurunziza to serve another two seven-year terms from 2020.
The crisis has pushed ordinary Burundians deep into poverty, but the government was confident people would find the cash.
“We are convinced that everyone will contribute,” Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye said.
“If by chance, there is someone who wants to make an exception, he can express it officially in writing,” he added.
The government suggested payments range from half a dollar (euro) for high school students, around double that for farmers, to monthly deductions from wage packets of civil servants.
For those in the private sector, the interior ministry will compile contributor lists from payment receipts.
But Gabriel Rufyiri, head of the anti-corruption board OLUCOME, who has been forced into exile by the crisis, said such fundraising orders are only constitutional for natural disasters.
“This is organised robbery,” he said. “Contrary to what the government says, this contribution will be mandatory.”
Ordinary people will have to show payment receipts or face the ruling party’s ferocious Imbonerakure youth wing, branded a militia by the UN and be blocked from accessing government services.
“They must pay, always pay more,” an activist inside Burundi said, speaking on condition of anonymity, describing the pervasive fear. “They are under the constant pressure of the Imbonerakure and the government.”