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UN office in Burundi says acquittal of former president will ease ‘political atmosphere’

UN office in Burundi says acquittal of former president will ease ‘political atmosphere’

Welcoming this week’s decision by the Supreme Court of Burundi to acquit and release the former president of the republic and four other senior officials accused of plotting a coup, the United Nations office in the country said the move would help in “easing the political atmosphere.”

“The decision concerned Mr. Domitien Ndayizeye, former president of the Republic, Mr. Alphonse-Marie Kadege, former vice-president, Barrister Isidore Rufykiri, Mr. Deo Niyonzima, and Colonel Damien Ndarisigaranye, who had been in detention at the Mpimba prison since early August 2006,” the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) said in a press release.

“This ruling... will most certainly gladden and comfort the families concerned and, over and above, contribute in easing the political atmosphere. The United Nations takes the opportunity to reiterate to the Government and people of Burundi its firm commitment to support their efforts to strengthen the rule of law and to build a society characterized by peace, tolerance, justice and progress.”

The Supreme Court made the decision to acquit and release the five, out of a total of seven people who were accused of plotting the coup, on Monday.

In a separate development, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that heavy floods over the past few weeks in Burundi have affected hundreds of thousands of people who will require food aid for the next six months.

“The situation is deteriorating rapidly and will not improve before the next harvest in June. Seven of Burundi’s provinces are affected. WFP has been distributing food to the affected provinces since the beginning of the month to 400,000 persons,” spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told reporters in Geneva.

Preliminary assessments by WFP, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that the loss of agricultural products because of the rains and floods is estimated at between 50 and 80 per cent, she added.

Like neighbouring Rwanda, impoverished Burundi has also been ravaged by an ethnic conflict between its Hutu and Tutsi populations. Since gaining independence in 1962, the small Central African country has been the victim of violent coups and political instability. The death of some 300,000 people after the first free elections took place in 1993 led to increased international involvement and the establishment of the first UN mission in Burundi three years later.