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.
President Ndayishimiye reshuffled govt in apparent attempt to ensure loyalty of inner circle amid ruling party divisions.
Govt reshuffle exposed ruling party divisions. PM Gervais Ndirakobuca 2 Oct presented review of govt performance to parliament, acknowledging achievement gaps in several sectors, including interior, justice and education. However, govt reshuffle announced next day seemed to reward ministers for their loyalty, rather than performance, with President Ndayishimiye replacing health, agriculture, public service and youth ministers, while those in charge of poorly performing sectors stayed on. Reshuffle came as Sec Gen of ruling party, Révérien Ndikuriyo, recently toured country in apparent attempt to bolster his popularity; Ndikuriyo’s mounting ambitions could presage growing frictions with Ndayishimiye.
Authorities arrested opposition party leader. Authorities 17 Oct arrested head of opposition party Council for Democracy and Sustainable Development in Burundi, Kefa Nibizi, over accusations of undermining state security days after party blamed “unprecedented misery” on “failing leadership”; Nibizi granted provisional release 21 Oct. In separate development, Supreme Court 2 Oct denied bail to former PM Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who has been held in pre-trial detention since April on charges of undermining state security.
Burundi saw wins and losses at UN Human Rights Council. UN General Assembly 10 Oct elected Burundi and 14 other member states to Human Rights Council for three-year term. Human Rights Council 12 Oct extended mandate of special rapporteur for Burundi for another year, citing continued “human rights violations and abuses” in country; Gitega expressed frustration, saying resolution was politically motivated. UN special rapporteur 25 Oct presented annual report on situation of human rights in Burundi to UN General Assembly, noted “shrinking civic space” and “growing pressure on political parties, civil society organisations and the media” ahead of 2025 legislative and municipal elections.
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.
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