A Perilous Free-for-all in the Eastern DR Congo?
A Perilous Free-for-all in the Eastern DR Congo?
Report 192 / Africa 2 minutes

Burundi: Bye-bye Arusha ?

Since the 2010 boycotted elections, Burundi is steadily drifting away from what was initially regarded as a peacemaking model, and violence from both the ruling party and the opposition is threatening stability.

Executive Summary

Although the institutions are functioning and the government has been priding itself on its development and security achievements, Burundi is regressing. Due to the 2010 electoral impasse, the Arusha agreement has been replaced by a de facto one-party system characterised by the end of dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party, the government’s authoritarian drift and the resumption of political violence. Respect for the political minorities and rule of law has been largely ignored since 2010. To ensure lasting stability, the political actors should resume dialogue, guarantee pluralism for the 2015 elections and support a consensual transitional justice process. Given that they sponsor peacebuilding efforts, provide a significant amount of aid to Burundi and in the absence of other donors, the current international partners should focus on these issues while discussing with the government.

The dust has not yet settled since the 2010 elections. After boycotting the electoral process, the opposition parties formed a coalition (the Democratic Alliance for Change, ADC-Ikibiri) and several opposition leaders went into exile. A wave of mutual violence by the opposition and the ruling party (the National Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy, CNDD-FDD) ensued. Challenged by armed groups and criticised by civil society, the government has resorted to repression and intimidation.

The control of the institutions by the ruling party and the absence of a genuine opposition made the power-sharing system defined by the Arusha agreement irrelevant. The ruling party is managing state business and the transitional justice process as it wishes. In addition, it is instrumentalising the security services and is preparing a constitutional change behind closed doors. Today, the only checks and balances are the media and civil society.

However, there is a window of opportunity. On the one hand, socio-economic problems, rising social discontent and extrajudicial killings put severe strains on the government. On the other hand, parallel dialogues have recently started between the European Union and the Burundian government and between Burundian political actors. From 28 May to 2 June 2012, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Initiatives and Change hosted a meeting in Switzerland with representatives of most of the opposition parties, civil society leaders and two members of the ruling party.

Continuing these parallel dialogues and consolidating peace in Burundi will require mutual concessions by the ruling party and the opposition. It will also require that the donors maintain dialogue with the authorities on the political and security problems and resort to financial incentives, particularly for the preparation of the elections and the security sector reform. International efforts should focus on protecting journalists and civil society activists, empowering the independent human rights commission and promoting a security sector reform centred on human rights.

Bujumbura/Nairobi/Brussels, 25 October 2012

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