Burundi expels national WHO head during election campaign

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Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza and Evariste Ndayishimiye presidential candidate with his wife Angeline Ndayubaha attend a campaign rally at the Bugendana Stadium. File picture: Evrard Ngendakumana/Reuters

BURUNDI is expelling the national head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) during a presidential election campaign where politicians have pressed ahead with large rallies despite the risk from the coronavirus pandemic.

The government confirmed on Thursday that a May 12 letter from the foreign ministry was sent to WHO country head Walter Kazadi Mulombo and three aides ordering them out by Friday.

The vote for a successor to President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose government has been repeatedly accused of rights abuses and has previously expelled other representatives of international bodies, is due on May 20.

Bernard Ntahiraja, the foreign affairs assistant minister, confirmed the WHO officials had been declared ‘persona non grata’ but did not give reasons. There was no immediate comment from the WHO, which is an agency of the United Nations.

Burundi has so far reported a relatively low caseload of the Covid-19 disease: 27 infections and one death.

In 2018, it expelled UN investigators looking into allegations of rights abuses. The United Nations has previously accused security personnel and a ruling party militia of orchestrating gang rapes, torture and killings.

 

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