Burundi’s government has suspended the operations of non-governmental organizations for three months, saying that “many of them do not respect the law.”
The action was announced late Thursday by the National Council of Security, which is chaired by President Pierre Nkurunziza. It was not immediately clear how many local and international NGOs are suspended as of Oct. 1, though several civil society leaders told The Associated Press that only international ones were targeted.
The East African nation has had tense relations with some civil society groups since deadly political violence erupted in 2015 when Nkurunziza successfully ran for another term, which some called unconstitutional.
A referendum earlier this year approved changes to the constitution that allow Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, another 14 years when his term expires in 2020. He later said, however, that he would not seek another term.
The president’s spokesman on Friday said the affected NGOs know who they are, and he warned that some of the groups could be barred outright.
The spokesman, Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, accused some NGOs of working for multinational drug companies that promote homosexuality and others that produce weapons in order to “establish neocolonialism.”
He accused the groups of seeking to profit from bringing in diseases and from growing a market for ammunition. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “We prefer modesty in dignity.”
Burundi’s penal code says “whoever has sexual relations with someone of the same sex shall be punished with imprisonment.”
Earlier this month the Senate warned that NGOs would be punished for not following new regulations saying 60 percent of staffers must be ethnic Hutu and 40 percent must be Tutsi.
Burundi has a history of deadly tensions between the ethnic groups, similar to neighboring Rwanda.
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