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.
Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is intensifying, with Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in pursuit of rebels and Congolese insurgents on the rebound. With help from its allies, Kinshasa should step up diplomacy lest the country become a regional battleground once more.
Imbonerakure harassed civilians, intelligence services reportedly abducted opposition supporter, and security operations against RED-Tabara rebel movement continued. Ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure continued to target civilians. During CNDD-FDD sec gen’s visit to Rumonge commune, Imbonerakure 2 April harassed and beat up local fruit vendors. Clashes between opposition party Congrès National pour la Liberté (CNL) and Imbonerakure 13 April left CNL member severely injured in Mpanda commune, Bubanza province, prompting arrest of 14 CNL members in Mpanda 16-17 April. Authorities 16 April launched national campaign to provide paramilitary training to at least 6,000 Imbonerakure, with view to potentially create Force de réserve et d’appui au développement du pays (FRAD), new reserve military force composed of civilians; first batch of 300 Imbonerakure 16 April completed training in Makamba province. Meanwhile, families accused intelligence service of arresting four people whom they suspected of collaborating with armed groups in Ndava commune, Cankuzo province, 31 March; intelligence services 7 April also allegedly kidnapped CNL member in Cibitoke province. Police collaborating with locals 3 April found two unidentified, tied-up bodies in Buganda commune, Cibitoke province; 8 April found another corpse in Buruhukiro zone, Rumonge commune. Concerns over economic situation rose, primarily in Bubanza and Cibitoke provinces (north west), where rise in commodity prices and fuel shortages paralysed fishing. Armed forces continued to fight RED-Tabara rebel movement, Tutsi-led group that opposes country’s Hutu-dominated govt, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Notably, soldiers and their allies, mai mai rebels, 13 April killed Congolese soldier and stole around 400 cows from local farmers in Mutarule, Uvira territory, South Kivu, DRC; around 90 additional Burundian soldiers 15 April crossed into South Kivu.
As May elections approach, Burundi’s ruling party says it has stopped demanding payments from citizens to finance the polls. But the confiscatory practice persists. Bujumbura should move decisively to halt it as a prelude to wider-ranging improvement of governance in the country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This could be a first sign that [Ndayishimiye] will be able to take decisions that will not blindly follow in his predecessor's steps.
[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.
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.
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.
On 20 May, Burundians will elect a new president, future members of parliament and municipal councillors, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In this Q&A, Crisis Group looks at the various scenarios for the polls and the challenges that will face whoever prevails.
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.