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.
Public prosecutors called for life imprisonment for former PM Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, while govt troops engaged in DR Congo faced challenges.
Trial of former PM Bunyoni over alleged coup attempt ended. Supreme Court trial of Bunyoni 9 Nov concluded, with public prosecutors seeking life imprisonment on multiple charges including undermining national security for allegedly plotting coup against President Ndayishimiye in 2022; prosecutors also requested 30 years in prison for Bunyoni’s six co-defendants. Since Bunyoni’s arrest in April, human rights groups have called in vain for full judicial investigation into abuses committed by security forces during his time as security minister from 2015 to 2020.
Soldiers abandoned positions in DR Congo under pressure from M23. Amid renewed offensive by M23 armed group in North Kivu province (see DR Congo), Congolese civil society said Burundian troops deployed as part of East African Community regional force 22 Nov left Kitshanga town (which straddles Masisi and Rutshuru territories) and Mweso city (Masisi territory); military denied leaving Kitshanga. Meanwhile, M23 rebels 7 Nov accused Burundian troops of collaborating with Congolese armed forces and allied armed groups, including anti-Kigali Hutu-led Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, in eastern DR Congo; Gitega denied claim, which could strain relations with Rwanda after period of improvement. Radio France Internationale 17 Nov reported Gitega deployed at least four battalions of soldiers to North Kivu as part of bilateral agreement with Kinshasa.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Great Lakes expert Nelleke van de Walle about the escalation of violence in the eastern DR Congo, as Uganda and Burundi deploy troops to fight rebels in the area and Rwanda threatens to do the same.
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.
Reform promises by Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye have led to a marked improvement in relations with the EU. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to set benchmarks for Burundian human rights reforms and ensure compliance with EU-Burundi agreements.
In his year in office, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye has shown an appetite for reform and re-engagement with international partners. In this Q &A, Crisis Group experts assess whether ruling-party hardliners will hold the country back from turning a corner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.