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.
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.
In run-up to May referendum on constitutional changes that would allow President Nkurunziza to run in presidential elections until 2034, govt imprisoned opponents and incited violence: video on social media showed local official in Butihinda commune in north east calling on population to denounce “No” campaigners, promising their teeth would be broken. UN Secretary-General’s report 6 Feb criticised referendum for ignoring will of opposition; Burundian mission to UN called report violation of sovereignty and thousands demonstrated against it in Bujumbura 10 Feb incited by mayor. Registration for referendum and 2020 elections took place 8-17 Feb, some people reportedly forced to register; electoral commission 20 Feb said 5,000,742 people registered. After East African Community (EAC) summit 23 Feb, EAC facilitator of inter-Burundian talks, former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, denied rumours that he would resign; Mkapa to continue EAC mediation, despite lack of dialogue between govt and opposition. UN refugee agency 6 Feb launched appeal to sustain the 430,000 Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries. UN Development Programme 20 Feb expected one in three Burundians to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018 (20% increase on 2017 number).
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.
The ever-decreasing likelihood of a free and fair presidential election is in growing conflict with a popular desire for change in Burundi. To safeguard the Arusha principles agreed in 2000 to end Burundi’s civil war, the opposition and President Nkurunziza in particular must return to the path of democracy and dialogue.
To avoid a revival of past ethnic tensions between Hutu and Tutsi, Burundi needs to find the right balance between land restitution and national reconciliation.
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.
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
Le 5 avril dernier, l’International Crisis Group sortait un rapport sur les tensions et dissensions qui s’observent au sein de la Force de Défense Nationale (FDN) depuis le début de la crise née de la volonté de Pierre Nkurunziza de se représenter pour un troisième mandat en avril 2015. Le rapport fait le contour des problèmes qui minent l’institution militaire. Thierry Vircoulon, un des auteurs du rapport, a répondu aux questions de Yaga.
Originally published in Yaga Burundi
Africa is experiencing the highest number of humanitarian crises since the 1990s. As the new chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, takes office, International Crisis Group suggests how he can strengthen the organisation’s response to threats to continental peace and security.
Burundi’s 327,000 refugees are not mere victims but also active citizens, many remaining actively engaged in the country’s problems.
Si certains réfugiés burundais se sont résolus à la vie en exil, rares sont ceux qui ont laissé derrière eux la crise qui frappe leur pays. Dans cet article, le dernier d’une série de trois, des réfugiés burundais tentent d’envisager l’avenir, entre abattement et désir de reconquérir la « liberté » et une place dans leur société.