President Evariste Ndayishimiye enjoys good relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo next door. But following accusations that Rwanda is harbouring anti-Burundi insurgents and coup plotters, relations with that neighbour deteriorated severely over the course of 2023. At home, oppressive policies aimed at obstructing opposition continue while the ruling party’s supporters, especially its Imbonerakure youth wing, enjoy near impunity for their abuses. Crisis Group keeps an eye on Burundi’s role in the region’s fraught diplomacy and monitors its internal situation through the monthly conflict tracker CrisisWatch.

CrisisWatch Burundi

Unchanged Situation

Church expressed concerns about political freedoms, opposition criticised new electoral code, and insecurity persisted. 

Catholic Church expressed profound concerns about state of nation. Church 14 April issued public declaration highlighting failures in justice system, economy and, most prominently, political freedoms; statement emphasised need for free legislative elections in 2025, cautioning against political exclusion in implicit reference to recent govt-sponsored efforts to dismantle opposition National Congress for Freedom (CNL) party; political party leaders, civil society and human rights activists broadly reacted in agreement with church’s analysis, while ruling CNDD-FDD party Sec Gen said statement was sign of “freedom of expression enjoyed by every Burundian citizen”. Meanwhile, CNL remained in disarray amid govt repression, with reports at least 100 party members have fled to Tanzania since mid-March.

Electoral law amendments stirred opposition. Parliament 9 April adopted new electoral code, raising costs of candidate deposits and establishing that funds only reimbursed upon winning 5% of votes. Opposition highlighted concerns that measures will prohibit many candidates from running. Code also stipulated two-year waiting period for those who leave a political party before they are able to stand as independents, effectively barring prominent opposition figure Agathon Rwasa – ousted as CNL head in March in govt-sponsored efforts – from standing as independent in 2025 polls.

Human rights abuses and insecurity persisted. Human rights group Ligue Iteka 9 April released monthly report detailing dozens of murders, abductions and arbitrary arrests, with police, intelligence agents, soldiers and ruling-party youth wing Imbonerakure suspected as main perpetrators. Meanwhile, CNDD-FDD members accused in cases of sexual assault and other violence throughout April. Concerns remained high over agitation within army related to troop deployment in eastern DRC amid reports of desertion over pay, as Imbonerakure members continued to be trained to be deployed. 

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Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
Onesphore Sematumba

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