President Nkurunziza’s April 2015 decision to run for a third, unconstitutional term sparked a wave of opposition and violent repression. His subsequent re-election in July 2015 has turned unrest into a low-intensity conflict that shows little sign of resolution. In this context, the economy and public finance are under stress and living conditions for Burundians have deteriorated. Over 400,000 Burundians have fled the country, while political and ethnic polarisation are affecting the integrity of the army. Through field-based research in Burundi and neighbouring countries, and engagement with both government and foreign actors, Crisis Group aims to reduce the risk of civil war, mass atrocities and a regional proxy conflict. We advocate for a credible, internationally-mediated national dialogue and a return to inclusive constitutional rule.
Talks about ending Burundi’s crisis – sparked by the president’s decision to seek a third term – have fizzled out. With elections nearing in 2020, tensions could flare. Strong regional pressure is needed to begin opening up the country’s political space before the balloting.
Security forces clashed with armed militants in west near border with DR Congo (DRC), and authorities and ruling party continued to repress main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL). In west, RED-TABARA rebels clashed with security forces in Musigati, Bubanza province 22 Oct, fighting reportedly left at least a dozen dead on each side; group same day temporarily abducted twenty civilians from Mpanda. Authorities 22 Oct arrested four journalists and their driver en route to report on clashes. Unidentified militants clashed with security forces and Imbonerakure, youth members of ruling party CNDD-FDD, night of 25-26 Oct in Bubanza and neighbouring Cibitoke province; four militants, three security force members and six Imbonerakure reportedly killed. Imbonerakure 4 Oct detained and handed over to police five CNL members in Rumonge, Rumonge province. Authorities arrested fourteen CNL activists in Busiga, Ngozi province 5 Oct after discovery of body of Imbonerakure. Court 8 Oct sentenced to life four Imbonerakure for Aug killing of CNL member. Police 9-17 Oct arrested five CNL members in several provinces. Clashes between Imbonerakure and CNL in Kirundo 10-16 Oct left four CNL and two Imbonerakure injured. CNL member 23 Oct found dead after Imbonerakure allegedly kidnapped him. Unidentified gunman late Oct attempted to kill local official prompting authorities to arrest at least 23 CNL in Bujumbura province. Executive secretary of coalition of opposition parties in exile CNARED-Giriteka visited country 5-11 Oct, met interior minister 7 Oct to prepare return of opposition politicians in exile. Burundi and Tanzania began to repatriate Burundian refugees from Tanzania despite rights groups’ claims that conditions not safe for return; some 600 refugees arrived in Gisuru, Ruyigi province 3 Oct. Burundi and Tanzania 12 Oct signed agreement allowing their police forces to conduct cross-border operations, including in refugee camps in Tanzania. Unidentified assailants 19 Oct kidnapped four Burundian refugees from Nduta camp; camp residents blamed Burundian police.
Au Burundi, le déclin de l’économie exacerbe le risque de violence. L’Union européenne et ses Etats membres, qui ont suspendu leur aide directe au gouvernement, doivent redoubler d’efforts pour que leur soutien bénéficie à la population.
Two years on, the Burundi crisis shows little sign of resolution. Political and ethnic polarisation are now tearing apart the integrity of the army, long seen as the primary achievement of the Arusha peace agreement in 2000 which brought an end to protracted civil conflict.
To reverse Burundi’s slide toward a devastating social and humanitarian emergency – as ethnically-charged rhetoric worsens and refugees flee to neighbouring countries – the African Union needs to overcome its internal divisions, fix a so far incoherent response and facilitate a negotiated settlement between the government and the opposition.
The current political crisis has reopened the wounds of Burundi’s past. Hardliners now dominant in the government brutally stifle dissent, fuel ethnic hatred, and undermine the Arusha accord that framed Burundi’s peace for the past decade. The international community should push toward real dialogue, and prepare to intervene if violence escalates.
All is in place for a violent confrontation in Burundi. The failed coup on 13 May has intensified opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s push for a third term in office. After ten years of peace, Burundi is in danger of reopening the fault lines that once led the country into civil war.
[In Burundi] the government is pushing back on international pressure, trying to convince international actors that everything is alright. Meanwhile, its population is suffering in silence.
Mobile phones and social media maintain a link between many of Burundi’s constituent parts that appear steadily more remote and disconnected: the diaspora and the refugee camps, capital city and rural areas, Burundi and the rest of the world.
The only thing that's important now, the only card to play at the moment, is to try and convince the neighbouring countries to put pressure on Burundi [to end the escalating violence].
Le discours de Bujumbura est un piège qui se referme sur lui.
C’est toujours la même rhétorique que le régime utilise comme réponse quand il est mis en cause à Genève, New York ou Addis-Abeba
Le régime burundais est en grande difficulté. Et le problème des gouvernements qui arrivent à bout d’arguments, c’est que ça mène à de plus en plus de violence.
African heads of state should press Burundi to open the political space, in particular letting opposition politicians campaign freely and safely and allowing in international observers, in order to prevent a reprise of past violence or worse.
Originally published in The East African
The constitutional changes, if passed, could reset the clock on term limits for President Pierre Nkurunziza — potentially giving him an additional 14 years in power — and paving the way for the dismantling of ethnic balances embedded in the 2000 Arusha Agreement, which brought an end to Burundi’s protracted civil war.
Crisis Group’s first update to our Watch List 2018 includes entries on Burundi’s dangerous referendum, militant Buddhists and anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka, the impact of the Venezuelan crisis on the region, and the situation in Yemen. This annual early-warning report identifies conflict situations in which prompt action by the European Union and its member states would generate stronger prospects for peace.
Burundi needs international peacekeeping missions to keep its troops paid and happy. Peacekeeping missions need Burundian troops. But for how long?
Originally published in African Arguments
La question du financement du contingent burundais de l’Amisom illustre l’effet de rente des missions de maintien de la paix pour les armées pauvres. Ce financement, à long terme, peut avoir des conséquences politiques et socio-économiques qui dépassent le maintien de la paix et des effets pervers qui se font rapidement sentir en temps de crise.