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Cablegate: Gob Eliminates Political Meeting Restrictions

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJB #0587 3291533
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241533Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1223
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0050
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0067
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0078

UNCLAS BUJUMBURA 000587

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

LONDON, PARIS, PLEASE PASS TO AF WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV BY
SUBJECT: GOB ELIMINATES POLITICAL MEETING RESTRICTIONS

REF: A. BUJUMBURA 515
B. BUJUMBURA 558

1. (SBU) In a November 18 reversal, Minister of the Interior
Venant Kamana canceled an October 6 Ministerial Ordinance
that severely restricted the right of political parties to
meet freely (ref A). The new ordinance requires political
parties to simply inform local authorities three days in
advance of a meeting; the previous ordinance required
governmental approval to assemble. Additionally, the new
ordinance no longer requires political parties to accept
attendance by security or other governmental
"representatives" at such meetings. Political parties from
across the spectrum welcomed the decision to cancel the
original ordinance.

2. (SBU) COMMENT: Apparently acknowledging his
overzealousness, ruling-party member Kamana bowed to vocal
and sustained protests from the diplomatic corps, media,
civil society, and all political parties to lift the
restrictions on the rights of political parties to meet
freely. In a private conversation November 5 with an Embassy
official, Kamana sheepishly admitted that the new ordinance
had gone too far and that he needed to find a way to repeal
it. Similarly the ruling-party spokesman told PolOff in late
October that his party did not need the ordinance to be
competitive in the upcoming elections. Combined with local
and international concern over the detention of prominent
journalist and politician Alexis Sinduhije (ref B - he was
since charged with insulting the President) on the pretext of
holding an illegal political meeting, one of several recent
questionable maneuvers by the Government of Burundi (GOB) to
silence the opposition, canceling the ordinance is a step in
the democratic direction. Nevertheless, with the continued
detention of prominent journalists and other opposition
leaders, it is too early to conclude that the GOB is
committed to allowing constructive dissent. END COMMENT.
Moller

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