BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi's government on Monday suspended the licenses of 10 non-governmental organizations over allegations they have been involved in anti-government activities.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said the suspended groups played a role in a failed coup attempt in May against President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision to seek a third term sparked violent street protests in the capital, Bujumbura.
Gideon Niyungeko, whose group Focode is one of those under suspension, said he was not surprised by the decision and condemned a government he said "kills kids, young men and aged people." His group's stated goals are to promote good governance and development.
Many of Burundi's opposition leaders and rights activists have fled into exile, while some have been assassinated. Among the suspended groups is the one led by Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent rights activist who is now exiled in Belgium after surviving an assassination attempt.
The U.N. said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spoken out repeatedly on the importance of civil society.
"It's clear that every society needs a healthy civil society," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said when asked the U.N. chief's response to the government's action.
He said the secretary-general's newly appointed special adviser on Burundi was arriving in Bujumbura on Monday and will be holding meetings and reporting back in response to the Security Council resolution adopted on Nov. 12. It condemned ongoing killings in Burundi, threatened sanctions, and asked Ban to deploy a team to Burundi to work with the government, African Union and other partners to "develop options to address political and security concerns."
The government has been carrying out a disarmament operation in volatile parts of Bujumbura, hoping to get weapons out of civilian hands, but many people here blame the security forces for a wave of extrajudicial killings that have raised international concern. Some of those killed, however, have been supporters of the government, including a military general who had served as a spy chief.
Gunfire and loud explosions now characterize life in Bujumbura, and many have fled their homes over safety concerns.
The U.N. says at least 240 people have been killed since April, but the actual death toll is likely much higher.
Although the current conflict appears political, Burundi has a history of deadly conflicts between the country's Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
Nkurunziza took power in 2005 near the end of a civil war in which some 300,000 people were killed between 1993 and 2006.