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.
In 2019, the African Union faces many challenges, with conflicts old and new simmering across the continent. To help resolve these crises – our annual survey lists seven particularly pressing ones – the regional organisation should also push ahead with institutional reforms.
East African Community (EAC) leaders pledged to consult further on next step to resolve political standoff between govt and opposition, govt refused to repatriate soldiers from African Union Mission in Somalia, and Congolese army fought Burundian rebels in eastern DR Congo. At EAC heads of state summit 1 Feb facilitator of inter-Burundian dialogue, former Tanzanian President Mkapa, delivered his final report; it denounced boycotts by govt and opposition in exile of different rounds, lack of EAC summit dedicated to crisis, unclear funding mechanisms and lack of coordination among regional and international stakeholders. EAC leaders pledged to consult internally to decide next step and designated presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to head mediation. Govt 14 Feb approved creation of new party, National Congress for Freedom (CNL), by opposition leader Agathon Rwasa. Attorney General and police spokesman 15 Feb accused civil society activist in exile Pacifique Nininahazwe of instigating BBC documentary “Kamwe Kamwe – Inside Burundi’s Killing Machine” released Dec 2018 allegedly to incriminate authorities at International Criminal Court. During visit by Somali President Farmajo 18-19 Feb, Farmajo and President Nkurunziza called for heads of state summit of countries contributing troops to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As part of AMISOM drawdown, 1,000 of some 5,400 Burundian troops were supposed to leave Somalia by end-Feb; some 400 returned home 21-23 Feb, but govt refused to repatriate more, denouncing “injustice” of withdrawing only Burundian soldiers, claiming withdrawal would endanger remaining troops and threatening to repatriate all its troops. Following flare-up of fighting between Burundian military and Burundian rebels in eastern DR Congo in Jan, Burundian military 3 Feb reportedly began withdrawing from Congo. Congolese army 5 Feb reportedly launched offensive against Burundian rebel group RED-TABARA in South Kivu province, forcing latter to retreat within South Kivu.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally published in The East African
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.
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