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Burundi

Pierre Nkurunziza’s 2015 re-election for a third, unconstitutional term sparked a political and economic crisis marked by violent repression and deteriorated living conditions, pushing over 400,000 Burundians to flee the country. Evariste Ndayishimiye’s May 2020 election as Burundi’s new president has so far not lead to major political and economic changes, but he has reached out to regional and international actors, partly ending the country’s insularity, and thousands of those who fled following the 2015 crisis have returned. Through field-based research and engagement with government and foreign actors, Crisis Group aims to alert policymakers to the risk of ethnic polarisation. We advocate for respect of the 2000 Arusha agreement and renewed engagement with the Burundian authorities, conditional on respect for human rights, a functioning opposition and civil society, and independent media. 

CrisisWatch Burundi

Deteriorated Situation

Series of grenade explosions killed several people and wounded scores. Armed group RED-Tabara overnight 18-19 Sept launched mortar attacks on Bujumbura airport, from where President Ndayishimiye was due to fly next day, leaving no casualties; RED-Tabara next day claimed to have killed members of armed forces in ensuing clashes in Rukoko forest. Unidentified assailants 19-20 Sept launched at least four grenade attacks in capital Gitega and economic capital Bujumbura, killing at least five and injuring over a hundred; govt 21 Sept blamed “unidentified terrorists”, and RED-Tabara same day denied involvement. Authorities 22 Sept issued international arrest warrant against exiled opposition leader Alexis Sinduhije on suspicions of leading RED-Tabara. Grenade attack 28 Sept killed at least four in Vugizo village, Bujumbura Rural province. Meanwhile, military, police and ruling-party youth militia Imbonerakure forces deployed 11 Sept in Buganda commune, Citiboke province, near border with DR Congo (DRC), amid alleged imminent risk of attack by DRC-based Burundian rebels. Military 25 Sept reportedly detained 13 Kinyarwanda-speaking individuals in Citiboke province on suspicion of belonging to Rwandan rebel group. Authorities same day arrested 34 youths in Rutegama commune, Muramvya province over suspicion of seeking to join armed groups. UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (CoI) 16 Sept found Ndayishimiye, one year into presidency, has failed to undertake structural reforms to improve human rights record and rule of law. Following Gitega’s late June-early July suspension of foreign mining operations pending renegotiation of contracts with international companies, Council of Ministers 8 Sept held first discussion on reforming national Mining Code; established all minerals belong to Burundi and state must be involved at every stage of exploitation process.
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Reports & Briefings

In The News

29 Jul 2020
We should not expect spectacular reversals. Ndayishimiye is himself a product of the CNDD-FDD system and… must ensure the loyalty of the executives who were not necessarily in favour of his designation. The New Humanitarian

Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
8 Jul 2020
This could be a first sign that [Ndayishimiye] will be able to take decisions that will not blindly follow in his predecessor's steps. Deutsche Welle

Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
20 Aug 2019
[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. The New Humanitarian

Nelleke van de Walle

Deputy Project Director, Central Africa
7 Nov 2016
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 Guardian

Thierry Vircoulon

Former Senior Consultant, Central Africa
11 Oct 2016
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]. RFI

Thierry Vircoulon

Former Senior Consultant, Central Africa
23 Sep 2016
Le discours de Bujumbura est un piège qui se referme sur lui. Iwacu

Thierry Vircoulon

Former Senior Consultant, Central Africa

Latest Updates

EU Watch List / Global

Watch List 2021 – Autumn Update

Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Autumn Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Afghanistan, Burundi, Iran, Nagorno-Karabakh and Nicaragua.

Commentary / Africa

De-escalating Tensions in the Great Lakes

President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.

Briefing / Africa

Averting Proxy Wars in the Eastern DR Congo and Great Lakes

Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.

Also available in Français, Português
Op-Ed / Africa

AU Heads of State Summit needs to whip Nkurunziza back into line

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

Report / Africa

Running Out of Options in Burundi

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.

Also available in Français

Our People

Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
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