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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > Central Africa > Burundi > Elections in Burundi: The Peace Wager

Elections in Burundi: The Peace Wager

Africa Briefing N°20 9 Dec 2004

OVERVIEW

Although the deadlines for the political transition in Burundi set by the Arusha Agreement have not been respected, the move toward holding elections, the most important step in the Burundian peace process, is currently underway. Negotiations on power sharing and the new constitution have been completed. While the consensus sought was not achieved, the majority of the ‘Tutsi’ parties that had been opposed to the constitution finally recognised it on the eve of the end of the transition.[1] The United Nations Operations in Burundi (UNOB) has been deployed in Burundi since 1 June 2004, but it will be credible only if the international community provides it with the necessary support.[2] Burundi will not succeed alone in making progress toward peace; in order to do, this devastated country needs the immediate commitment of the international community.

A new interim constitution based on the Arusha Agreement entered into force on 1 November 2004, thus avoiding a constitutional vacuum, and is to be submitted to a referendum on 22 December 2004. A new electoral timetable has been presented by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which provides for the holding of elections in six months, ending with the presidential election on 22 April 2005. Henceforth, respect for these new deadlines will determine the success of the peace process after more than a decade of civil war.

Postponement of the general elections that were to be held on 31 October 2004 is based on a series of important decisions suggested by regional powers.[3] Closely argued negotiations on power sharing that began in June 2004[4] under the supervision of South Africa were completed two months later with the signing of the Pretoria Protocol,[5] which reaffirmed the primacy of the Arusha Agreement and determined the orientation of the new constitution. A post-transition constitution based on the Arusha Agreement of 2000 and the Pretoria Protocol of 2004 was adopted by a parliamentary congress.[6] CENI, responsible for organising the elections, was established by a presidential order at the beginning of September 2004. This progress has made it possible to avert an institutional crisis and to maintain a course toward the holding of elections.

However, after three months of negotiations, the long-awaited consensus had not been forged. Nonetheless, the interim constitution was adopted in the absence of the main ‘Tutsi’ parties. The regional initiative and the international community have not accepted the proposals of the non-signatory parties to the Pretoria Protocols (the ‘Tutsi’ parties), which wish to establish power sharing based on political-ethnic affiliation.[7] Faced with this pressure, the majority of the ‘Tutsi’ parties finally recognised the new interim constitution.

The political situation was very tense in Burundi during September and October 2004. The adoption of the Pretoria Protocol and the regional summits of August and October 2004 forced Burundian political leaders to accelerate the political process. The president of Burundi, Domitien Ndayzeye, took the decision to impose the interim constitution and the electoral process despite the reluctance and the boycott of the ‘Tutsi’ parties. On 10 November 2004, the vice-president, Alphonse-Marie Kadege (one of the leaders of UPRONA), was dismissed by the president for his attitude toward the new constitution. He was replaced by another member of UPRONA, Frédéric Ngenzebuhoro, considered to be more flexible. This change has contributed to a calming of the political situation as of November.

These political manoeuvres have raised apprehension and fears among Burundians.[8] However, this sustained pressure on the political process proved itself necessary to end debate on the new constitution and enable the electoral process to begin. The same political determination will be necessary to ensure adoption of the electoral code and the law organising the administration of the communes that are indispensable for the organisation of the elections.[9]

Political debate on the future of Burundi, as well as economic and social issues is still sorely lacking. Since the beginning of negotiations on the new constitution, the central issue has been power sharing; with discussion of political-ethnic quotas pre-dominating. However, the guarantees for protection of the minority are already established in the 2000 Arusha Agreement. Moreover, the Arusha Agreement is a compendium of protocols that are not limited to the question of power sharing but also deal with justice, reconciliation and economic reconstruction of the country and a return to the rule of law through reform of the judiciary system and security agencies. These key issues must be the focus of debate in order to meet the concerns of a population that has been largely abandoned after ten years of war.

As for security, the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process (DDR) officially began on 2 December 2004 with the disarmament of several hundred ex-combatants. The laws creating the new Forces de Défense Nationale (FDN) and the new Police Nationale (PN) have been adopted by the national assembly. Nonetheless, disarmament, presented as the chief means for pacifying the country, does not seem to be a solution in the short-term. It is directly linked to the re-integration process, but that has still not begun significantly.[10] The main brakes on integration of the rebel forces are both financial and political. The announcement of forthcoming elections and a change in power do not reassure the parties, and obliges each party to keep its own forces under control. It is important to separate the stakes of the political process from those of reform of the army, while at the same time improving their coordination by following a political-military roadmap. Reform of the army should not depend on the result of the next elections. The basis for restructuring the defence and security forces remains the Global Ceasefire Agreements, and that process must remain technical (with a focus on implementation) and no longer be political.

The new electoral schedule calls for the holding of a constitutional referendum on 22 December 2004; local elections on the collines (the lowest level of administrative organisation and corresponding to the general topography of Burundi) and in the communes on 9 and 23 February 2005; legislative elections at the provincial level on 9 March; senatorial elections on 23 March; and finally the indirect presidential election by parliament on 22 April 2005.[11] Respect for this timetable partially depends on the expertise provided by the United Nations Operations in Burundi (UNOB). Although the timetable seems fair and realistic, the range of tasks to be carried out is considerable. The funds required for the registration of voters and the holding of the referendum have still not been released. The voter census that has just been held has shown that technical problems remain. As for UNOB, it is entering into the final phase of its deployment. Its mission now is to assist Burundi in the DDR process and in the organisation of the elections.

Nairobi/Brussels, 9 December 2004



[1] The Union pour le Progrès National (UPRONA) political party, however, has merely taken note of the new constitution.

[2] Its mandate has been extended until 1 December 2004 for six months by Security Council resolution 1577.

[3] The regional initiative is led by primarily South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

[4] See Crisis Group Africa report No. 81, “End of Transition in Burundi: The Home Stretch”, 5 July 2004.

[5] The Pretoria Protocol on Political, Defence and Security Power Sharing in Burundi, Pretoria, 6 August 2004. Out of 30 political parties, 10 have refused to sign that agreement. They are all ‘Tutsi' parties: ALIDE, ANADDE, INKINZO, MRC, PACONA, PARENA, PRP, PSD, RADDES and UPRONA.

[6] The new interim constitution was adopted by the national assembly and the senate meeting in an extraordinary congress and then was declared provisional by presidential order.

[7] See Annex B of the Arusha Agreement of 2000 for a more detailed explication of the new interim constitution. The ‘Tutsi’ parties demand that a majority of the posts given to Tutsis should be for Tutsis from the ‘Tutsi’ political parties. This proposal was not accepted in the new constitution, which does not specify the political provenance of the Tutsis who will participate in the government.

[8] More than 2000 Tutsis fled the province of Kirundo in northern Burundi for Rwanda.

[9] The two draft bills are scheduled to be submitted to parliament during the current session.

[10] The following progress is noteworthy: the deployment in Bujumbura of the special protection unit and training of mixed units at the Tenga camp, but for the time being these initiatives affect only certain elements of the Forces Armées Burundaises (FAB) and the Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (FDD). The minority armed movements have still not begun their integration. Integration is now taking place partially, however, by fighting against the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL). FAB and FDD have been jointly deployed in Bujumbura Rural province.

[11] The referendum has already been postponed twice.

 
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