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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

Security forces clashed with unidentified gunmen in Kibira forest; forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests of political opponents continued. Security forces 5 Nov clashed with unidentified armed men in Kibira forest reserve, killing two and arresting one; renewed exchange of fire next day left one soldier dead. Army 10 Nov killed three alleged rebels and arrested another in same forest, while local official and police officer injured during operation. Court 11 Nov sentenced suspect of 5 Nov attacks to life imprisonment on charges of “undermining state security”. Arbitrary arrests of opponents continued. Notably, presumed security forces and ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure 1 Nov detained member of opposition National Freedom Congress (CNL) Abdoul Ndayishimiye in Cibitoke province; intelligence officers 16 Nov arrested Jean Baptiste Mpawenayo, relative of CNL leader Agathon Rwasa, in Bujumbura area. Suspected Imbonerakure 8 Nov also kidnapped and later killed CNL member Claude Nibigira in Buterere area, Bujumbura Mairie province. Locals in Buganda and Rugombo communes, Cibitoke province, early Nov found two bodies bearing signs of torture. Unidentified assailants 27 Nov gunned down businessman and opposition party member Christophe Nimbabazi in Zambian capital Lusaka; attack raised concerns among exiled political opponents. U.S. President Biden 18 Nov removed sanctions on eight senior military and security officials, including PM Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, citing reduced violence and return to political normality since 2020 elections; move follows 18 Oct EU decision to renew for another year sanctions on three Burundian govt officials and one former general, initially imposed in Oct 2015 for their role in violence and political obstruction in April-May 2015.
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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

Project Director, Great Lakes
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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