- Two Burundian trade union leaders, Claver Hajayandi and Célestin Nsavyimana, have been freed after several days of detention. The two were arrested after criticising the government at a labour meeting. While the union workers are set free, their organisation's computer still remains in police custody.
Mr Hajayandi and Mr Nsavyimana were detained by Burundi police forces following an address before a workers' meeting in which they reportedly criticised government plans to submit a new draft constitution to a national referendum. The two are the President and Treasurer of the Confederation of Burundi's Labour Unions (COSYBU), the country's main trade union.
The two comrades were detained when in the process of drafting a text defining the Burundian union's position on the draft constitution. The trade union in particular had found it should protest that the draft would postpone elections and give legitimacy to the current non-elected government for a non-defined period.
During the 24 September arrest, government agents had used force to enter the premises of COSYBU. The hard disk of the union's computer and several documents had been seized during the police action, which took place shortly after the two trade union leaders had addressed their members, criticising the draft constitution.
The release of Mr Hajayandi and Mr Nsavyimana followed massive lobbying from international trade union partners, including the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), which organises 148 million workers world-wide. ICFTU in a letter to Burundian President Domitién Ndayizeye on 27 September had strongly protested the detention of the two.
The widely publicised letter to President Ndayizeye said that the arrest of the two trade union leaders "contravened human rights and trade union rights, including the right to free speech, and was a curtailment the trade union organisation's freedom to analyse national political developments when workers' interests were at stake."
Today, ICFTU in a statement welcomed the freeing of the two union leaders. Following their recent release, Mr Hajayandi and Mr Nsavyimana have met with Burundi's President in an attempt to improve trade union - government relations.
The ICFTU said it saw the meeting as "an encouraging start to improving social and labour relations" in the central African country. However, the global unionists are still urging Burundi authorities to immediately return the union's computer hard disk, seized when police stormed COSYBU's premises.
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