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

Amid continued political tensions, govt clamped down on press while security forces’ abuses remained prevalent.

Political tensions remained high ahead of 2025 legislative elections. As electoral commission continued preparations for polls, opposition Frodebu party – primarily ethnic Hutu party that held power briefly in 1993 – 2 June held meeting in capital Gitega; conference’s combative tone toward govt suggested party may attempt to compete strongly in next year’s polls, despite widespread political repression. Meanwhile, Supreme Court 27 June upheld life sentence of former PM Bunyoni on several charges including attempting to overthrow govt, amid reports authorities may fear his continued influence.

Govt escalated media intimidation and harassment. Political reporter for independent Iwacu outlet 4 June reported he escaped attempted arrest by two policemen in largest city Bujumbura; Iwacu 6 June said it had received warning from press regulator against breaching media guidelines after series of critical articles including on economy. Regulator 11-12 June also prohibited rebroadcast of radio debate featuring opposition leader Agathon Rwasa that focussed on national budget. Human rights group Ligue Iteka 14 June called on govt to stop harassment and intimidation of press and journalists. 

Alleged abuses by security forces remained widespread. Targeting of those linked to opposition figure Rwasa continued to cause concern after series of late May arrests and beatings by police and ruling-party youth wing Imbonerakure of Rwasa supporters in Cankuzo, Rutana and Ruyigi provinces.

In other important developments. Amid economic crisis and worsening fuel and power supply, govt 13 June passed two-year budget that observers saw as overly optimistic; National Assembly president same day threatened to reprimand MPs commenting on current crisis. Leaked UN report early June alleged Rwanda has increased backing to RED-Tabara rebel group, in line with govt’s allegations. SOS Media Burundi 25 June reported military court in Rutana 18-22 June imprisoned or fined hundreds of soldiers for allegedly refusing to fight M23 rebels alongside Congolese army in eastern DRC.

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Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
Onesphore Sematumba

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