SP development spokesman named ‘political comrade’ of Burundi journalist

24 September 2011

SP development spokesman named ‘political comrade’ of Burundi journalist

Ewout Irrgang, Member of Parliament and development spokesman for the SP, today became a ‘political comrade’ of Burundi journalist Eric Manirakiza. The initiative is a response to growing repression of critical journalists and members of the opposition on the part of the Burundi government.

For a long tome now the SP has been in frequent contact with Burundi human rights activists, opposition leaders and journalists. Many of these people are regular targets of arbitrary arrest, while the Burundi government has also been guilty of abuses up to and including summary execution.

Eric Manirakiza, director of Burundi’s leading radio station, is on a government death list as a result of his being regarded as too critical. “By calling and emailing him regularly and letting the Burundi government know that I know what’s going on as far as his wellbeing is concerned, I hope to be able to contribute something to his protection.”

Because Burundi is almost bankrupt following a lengthy civil war, the government is currently largely dependent on Western donors. Amongst these, the Netherlands supplies the Burundi government with development aid.

“Until recently the Netherlands gave budgetary support to the Burundi government,” Irrgang explains. “This kind of aid is in reality a sort of blank cheque. We also contribute to the costs of reforming the Burundi police and army. But the problem is precisely that many abuses in the security sector are performed at the behest of the Government. In fact what we are doing is contributing in this way to the oppression of the Burundi people and those who defend their human rights. This must stop.”

Irrgang recently successfully argued for the suspension of budgetary aid to the Burundi government. He hopes that he will be equally successful when it comes to aid to the security sector. “Secretary of State Ben Knapen wants to cut almost a billion euros from development aid next year. The SP is against such an enormous cut but if it’s going to happen then this would seem a fine item to chop.”

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