Some of Burundi’s Catholic bishops should be defrocked for denouncing intolerance and political violence ahead of next year’s elections, the country’s authorities have said.
Presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said in a tweet that the bishops were “spitting venomous hatred” with their incendiary words.
On Sunday, churches read out a message from Burundi’s Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said those with differing opinions from the government were being persecuted and that some political parties were being suffocated.
“Criminal acts go as far as murders with political motives… perpetrated against those with different opinions to the government”, the AFP news agency quotes their message as saying.
A UN team earlier this month warned that crimes against humanity were being perpetrated ahead of the polls.
The country was plunged into a political crisis in 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ultimately successful bid to run for a third-term sparked protests by opposition supporters.
More than 1,000 people were killed in the unrest and 400,000 fled the country.
Burundians voted in a referendum last year to change the constitution that would allow Mr Nkurunziza to stay in office until 2034, although he has said he will not seek re-election next year.