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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

Unchanged Situation

Govt continued diplomatic offensive as part of effort to alleviate country’s isolation; clampdown on opposition and civil society persisted. Authorities 2 April lifted June 2019 ban on independent NGO PARCEM in apparent move to respond to EU’s demands for improvements in human rights and media freedom. Govt and EU 9 April held second round of negotiations on normalising relations, including lifting EU sanctions and resuming direct financial support; EU invited Burundian FM Albert Shingiro for European tour, which started 26 April. Amid rapprochement with Rwanda, govt 2 April welcomed Kigali’s late March decision to suspend three Burundian radio stations, which had been operating from Kigali since 2015 political crisis in Burundi, said move showed “dialogue [with country] was not in vain”. AU Peace and Security Council 27 April met to discuss possible shutdown of Human Rights Observers and Military Experts Mission in Burundi; decision expected early May. Meanwhile, authorities continued to harass opposition and civil society. In Rumonge province, authorities 11 April arrested opposition party Union for National Progress youth leader over accusations of hosting unauthorised gathering and 14 April arrested civilian for allegedly cooperating with rebel group. Authorities 13 April decried as biased U.S. State Dept’s annual report on human rights, published late March, which recorded at least 205 extrajudicial killings in Burundi in 2020 and highlighted “widespread impunity for govt and ruling party officials and for their supporters and proxies”. Main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) next day called on govt to release 15 CNL members who have been imprisoned for almost a year on accusations of threatening security around May 2020 general elections. Former Defence Minister Maj. Gen. Cyrille Ndayirukiye 24 April died in Gitega prison, where he was serving life sentence for allegedly playing central role in 2015 coup attempt. Authorities 26 April released first 3,000 of over 5,000 detainees who were granted presidential amnesty in March in bid to alleviate prison overcrowding.

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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

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.

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
Commentary / Africa

Eight Priorities for the African Union in 2019

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.

Also available in Français
Report / Africa

Soutenir la population burundaise face à la crise économique

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.  

Also available in English

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Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
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