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Burundi: Garantir un processus électoral crédible
Burundi: Garantir un processus électoral crédible
Table of Contents
  1. Synthèse
De-escalating Tensions in the Great Lakes
De-escalating Tensions in the Great Lakes
Report 155 / Africa

Burundi: Garantir un processus électoral crédible

Le Burundi a fait de grands pas pour tourner la page de la guerre civile, mais la tension politique monte dangereusement à l’approche des élections. Ces tensions pourraient dégénérer violemment dans les prochains mois, ruinant la crédibilité du processus électoral et mettant en péril une démocratie fragile et les nombreux acquis du processus de paix.

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Synthèse

Le Burundi a fait de grands pas pour tourner la page de la guerre civile, mais la tension politique monte dangereusement à l’approche des élections. Ces tensions pourraient dégénérer violemment dans les prochains mois, ruinant la crédibilité du processus électoral et mettant en péril une démocratie fragile et les nombreux acquis du processus de paix. Après la forte pression internationale exercée sur le parti au pouvoir, un consensus a été atteint sur la création d’une Commission électorale nationale indépendante (CENI) et, en septembre 2009, sur un nouveau code électoral. Les scrutins communaux, présidentiels et législatifs sont programmés entre mai et septembre prochain.

Les partis d’opposition sont déjà victimes de harcèlements et d’intimidation de la part de la police et du mouvement de jeunesse du parti au pouvoir, et semblent vouloir répondre à la violence par la violence. Les institutions régionales ainsi que les autres partenaires du Burundi devraient renforcer les mécanismes de surveillance de la violence électorale, soutenir le déploiement d’une mission de police régionale, et créer une facilitation politique de haut niveau pour aider au règlement des différends. Les dirigeants de tous les partis devraient également être avertis qu’ils risquent des sanctions personnelles s’ils cherchent à truquer les élections, et seront passibles de poursuites internationales s’ils commettent des actes de violence graves.

Bien qu’un cadre électoral approuvé par la majorité de la classe politique soit en place, les partis d’opposition ne peuvent toujours pas opérer librement. Dans plusieurs régions du pays, les administrations locales contrôlées par le Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie – Forces de défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), actuellement au pouvoir ordonnent à la police d’inter­rom­pre les rassemblements des partis d’opposition ainsi que de les empêcher d’ouvrir des bureaux locaux. Dans le même temps, des organisations de la société civile et certains médias sont harcelés pour avoir dénoncé les dérives autoritaires du parti au pouvoir.

L’entraînement physique, les chants guerriers et l’orga­nisation quasi militaire du mouvement de jeunesse du CNDD-FDD font craindre également le retour des violences miliciennes et une campagne d’intimidation à grande échelle. Pour s’opposer à ces tactiques d’inti­mi­dation, les autres ex-rebelles, les Forces nationales de libération (FNL) et le Front pour la démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), mobilisent également leurs propres groupes de jeunes. La police étant souvent restée passive voire même complice des abus du parti au pouvoir, il est légitime de craindre qu’elle ne se politise plus encore, et devienne semblable au Service national de renseignement (SNR), qui a déjà tenté de déstabiliser l’oppo­sition. En attendant, les principales stratégies électorales des partis d’opposition, à l’exception de celles de quelques nouveaux acteurs, n’offrent pas davantage de vision politique alternative, et se complaisent souvent dans la provocation. La plupart des partis se contentent en effet de critiquer les dirigeants du CNDD-FDD en les accusant de corruption ou de pratiques autoritaires, mais sans rien proposer de crédible.

Étant donné la popularité du président Nkurunziza dans les zones rurales et les avantages financiers et logistiques qui découlent du contrôle des institutions étatiques, il est probable que le CNDD-FDD conserve la présidence de la République. Ce parti pourrait cependant perdre la majorité au parlement et le contrôle des administrations provinciales, se voyant ainsi obligé de former un gouvernement de coalition – scénario que les durs du parti, notamment les chefs militaires, souhaitent vivement éviter. Cette perspective et le harcèlement des partis d’opposition suggèrent que le CNDD-FDD cherche à rem­­porter les élections locales et législatives à tout prix.

S’il n’est guère probable que les tensions actuelles ne provoquent un retour à la guerre civile, les partenaires régionaux et internationaux du Burundi doivent rapidement soutenir des politiques de prévention du risque d’escalade violente. L’escalade de la violence pourrait en effet plonger le pays dans une nouvelle crise politique et mettre en péril une grande partie des récents progrès du processus de paix. Les organisations de la société civile et les média devraient aussi apporter leur soutien à la création de mécanismes efficaces de surveillance des violences électorales et documenter et dénoncer ces incidents. Les pays de l’Initiative régionale sur le Burundi (l’Ouganda, la Tanzanie, et le Rwanda en particulier) devraient, par ailleurs, appuyer leurs efforts pour améliorer la formation et les opérations de la police nationale, en proposant une mission de police régionale. Incorporées dans chaque province au sein des forces burundaises, plusieurs petites équipes, dotées par les donateurs de leurs propres moyens logistiques et de communication, pourraient alors soutenir la préparation de la sécurisation des élections et conseiller et surveiller sa mise en place.

Cette mission de police régionale devrait être dirigée par un commissaire travaillant directement avec le directeur  general de la police burundaise, et placé sous l’autorité d’un envoyé spécial de haut niveau mandaté par l’Initiative régionale et l’Union africaine. Le rôle de ce dernier serait d’aider à résoudre les principaux conflits politiques résultant d’in­ci­dents de sécurité graves et les allégations de fraude électorale. L’envoyé spécial coordonnerait aussi l’effort international qui s’est sensiblement affaibli depuis la dissolution du partenariat pour la paix au Burundi et l’expulsion du Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général des Nations unies à la fin de 2009. Un chef d’Etat à la retraite de la région, connaissant bien la politique burundaise et respecté par toutes les parties, serait bien placé pour jouer ce rôle.

Nairobi/Bruxelles, 12 février 2010

Commentary / Africa

De-escalating Tensions in the Great Lakes

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.

This commentary is part of our Watch List 2020.

Since assuming office in early 2019, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) president, Félix Tshisekedi, has stressed his determination to dismantle the dozens of Congolese and foreign armed groups blighting the troubled east of the country. He has also prioritised repairing ties with neighbouring states, which have historically both backed and fought against rebels in the eastern DRC over various cycles of war in the last two decades. Today, tensions are again mounting among the DRC’s neighbours – between Burundi and Uganda, on one hand, and Rwanda, on the other – potentially compounding the country’s security challenges. Alongside Tshisekedi’s diplomatic efforts to calm tensions, he has floated plans to invite these three neighbours to deploy their armed forces into the DRC to conduct joint operations with Congolese forces against rebels. Yet insofar as tensions among those countries remain high, such operations could pave the way for them to step up support to allied groups even while fighting rivals, and thus fuel proxy warfare. Civilians in the eastern DRC are likely to suffer most.

In line with its December Foreign Affairs Council conclusions that lay out the EU’s plans for re-engagement with the DRC, and to help President Tshisekedi de-escalate regional tensions, the EU and its member states should:

  • Reinforce the International Contact Group for the Great Lakes region, an informal gathering comprising the UN (including both the UN’s special envoy to the Great Lakes and the head of its mission in the DRC, MONUSCO), the U.S., the African Union and South Africa, as well as the EU and several European states that are important donors in the region, such as Belgium, the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. The EU and European governments could designate senior EU and other European ministerial appointees to fill the group, over and above the working-level desk officers who normally tend to participate.
  • Use the increased clout this would bring to push for a mechanism whereby each of the three neighbours airs allegations against states they believe are backing armed groups in the DRC and supports the charges with evidence. Allegations can then be investigated by the UN Group of Experts and the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (the ICGLR comprises regional states and is a guarantor of a 2013 regional peace agreement; its joint verification mechanism and the UN expert group already have mandates to investigate claims of support to armed groups). Their findings could inform diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions among neighbours and end their backing of insurgents in the DRC.
  • At the same time, encourage President Tshisekedi to shelve, at least for now, his plan for joint operations with neighbours’ security forces.
  • Offer financial and technical support for the national disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process, to ensure that Congolese militias linked to foreign rebels operating in the eastern DRC have a safe pathway to giving up their fight.

Security Challenges

In recent months, eastern DRC-based foreign insurgencies have escalated attacks on both the Congolese army as well as soldiers and civilians in neighbouring countries. The Burundian, Rwandan and Ugandan presidents are all rattling their sabres in response, accusing one another of proxy warfare.

On 4 October, DRC-based fighters killed fourteen people in Kinigi village in Rwanda’s Musanze district. Rwandan authorities blame the Forces démocratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels. They say the FDLR is working with another DRC-based rebel group, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), which they allege is run by one of President Paul Kagame’s former generals. They also say both the FDLR and the RNC enjoy Burundian and Ugandan support. In a speech, Kagame vowed to retaliate against anyone seeking to attack Rwanda.

After the Kinigi killings, fighters crossed into Burundi from the DRC to launch two separate deadly attacks. Burundian RED-Tabara rebels, whom Burundian officials say are backed by Rwanda, claimed the first attack. No one claimed the second, but Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, recalling Kigali’s support for mutineers in a 2015 coup attempt, blamed Rwanda for both attacks, alleging that Kigali supports RED-Tabara. Ugandan officials, for their part, assert that Rwanda is collaborating with the Allied Democratic Forces, a rebel movement with roots in Uganda that is implicated in dozens of massacres in the Beni area of North Kivu since 2014.

Rwandan and Ugandan officials continue to trade accusations that each is plotting to destabilise the other.

Rwandan and Ugandan officials continue to trade accusations that each is plotting to destabilise the other. Both governments have purged their security services of suspected traitors. Rwanda has now also closed a main border crossing into Uganda, suffocating trade between the two countries. Meanwhile, Burundi and Rwanda have dispatched troops to their mutual border while Uganda has deployed troops to its western frontier facing North Kivu. Should these tensions heighten, they could fuel more proxy fighting in the eastern DRC, further threatening regional stability.

Recognising the dangers, Tshisekedi invited Rwanda and Uganda for talks in July and August hosted by Angolan President João Lourenço in the Angolan capital Luanda. They culminated in a memorandum of understanding, signed on 21 August, in which both countries promised to halt “actions conducive to destabilisation or subversion in the territory of the other party and neighbouring countries”. In addition to these diplomatic efforts, the DRC president floated plans that would involve the armed forces of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda conducting joint military operations with Congolese forces against insurgents in the eastern DRC. Absent political de-escalation among the neighbour governments, such operations could pave the way for all three to ratchet up support to proxies opposing their respective rivals. The eastern DRC could again become the arena for a multi-sided melee.

Calming Regional Tensions

In its latest Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on the DRC in December 2019, the EU asserted its readiness to redefine its relationship with the country. This comes after relations between Brussels and Kinshasa cooled at the tail end of Kabila’s presidency, when the EU sanctioned some of his top henchmen in late 2018. President Tshisekedi has expressed an increasing willingness to work with Brussels even as the EU renewed sanctions in December 2019 against twelve of the fourteen Kabila-era officials. In particular, the EU could help de-escalate regional tensions and lessen neighbours’ support to foreign armed groups while contributing to pathways to surrender for Congolese fighters allied to such groups.

The immediate priority is to encourage President Tshisekedi to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to calm tensions among DRC’s neighbours.

The immediate priority is to encourage President Tshisekedi to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to calm tensions among DRC’s neighbours while putting aside, at least for now, plans for those neighbours to conduct military operations in the eastern DRC. The EU’s best bet for pressing for an approach along these lines would be to increase its influence in the International Contact Group for the Great Lakes, the informal group to which it and a number of European states belong. Brussels and other European capitals should commit more senior officials both to the contact group itself and to liaising with the group and with regional governments. Together with the UN special envoy to the Great Lakes, Xia Huang, who has recently been instrumental in bringing together the Burundian, Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan intelligence chiefs to discuss their deteriorating relations, the EU should use its weight in the group to prioritise the need for a political solution to tackling foreign armed groups in the eastern DRC.

Such a solution could entail Xia encouraging the three states to lay out their allegations and evidence of support by their rivals to armed groups in the DRC. He could share all information received with the UN Group of Experts and the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region. The evidence provided by regional states, and investigations conducted by the expert group and joint verification mechanism, could collectively inform diplomatic efforts to halt or diminish support to DRC-based insurgents.

By financially and technically supporting the national DDR process, the EU can also back Tshisekedi’s priority of tackling the plague of Congolese armed groups. Congolese insurgents, many of whom are sucked into alliances with more powerful foreign armed groups, often lack an alternative in the absence of a fully funded DDR program. Under Kabila, the Congolese authorities gave only limited resources to DDR. Several donors pulled out, frustrated by Kinshasa’s lack of commitment to funding a national program. Despite the uptick in attacks in the east, there are signs that some fighters are placing greater hope in Tshisekedi’s presidency and expressing greater desire to surrender. MONUSCO’s new mandate, adopted at the end of December 2019, encourages the DRC’s government to appoint a senior coordinator to lead the DDR effort. The EU could consider supplying this person with the necessary funding and expertise to carry out the mandate.