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

Deteriorated Situation

Security situation deteriorated amid series of deadly grenade attacks in Bujumbura that marked worst violence in city in recent years, as govt blamed rebel group.

Series of grenade attacks struck country’s largest city Bujumbura. Grenade 5 May detonated in Kamenge area in north of city, resulting in three deaths and eight injuries, although conflicting casualty reports emerged. Another attack struck city’s bus park 10 May, reportedly claiming six lives and leaving dozens wounded, but Interior Minister Pierre Nkurikiye refuted reports of any fatalities. Same day, attacker carried out grenade assault in Ngagara district, resulting in his injury and arrest. Nkurikiye 11 May accused RED-Tabara rebels, group reportedly backed by Rwanda, of orchestrating attacks with Rwandan and diaspora support; Rwanda 12 May issued statement dismissing involvement, while RED-Tabara also denied accusations of being responsible same day.

Security situation continued to deteriorate across country. Ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure member suspected of being responsible for 2 May killing of civilian in Mukoro hill, Gitega province. Arbitrary arrests continued as police, in collaboration with Imbonerakure, 16 May detained 44 individuals in Nyanza-lac commune, Makamba province, on charges of “rebellion”. Human rights group Ligue Iteka 2 May released monthly report detailing dozens of murders as well as case of torture of opposition National Congress for Freedom (CNL) member, with police, intelligence agents, soldiers and Imbonerakure suspected as main perpetrators.

In other important developments. Economy continued to plummet due to inflation, fuel and electricity shortages, exacerbated by delayed infrastructure projects and govt mismanagement, while food and transport costs rose. Meanwhile, concerns remained high over continued rise of waters of Lake Tanganyika, which has displaced hundreds of thousands in past seven months, flooded homes and destroyed crops, prompting April govt and UN appeals for support.

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Onesphore Sematumba

Analyst, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi
Onesphore Sematumba

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