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Understanding Burundi’s predicament

EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
No. 11
June 2015
Understanding Burundi’s predicament
Tomas Van Acker
On Sunday 25 April 2015, one day after
the ruling Conseil National Pour la
Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour
la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-
FDD) party designated incumbent
president Nkurunziza as its candidate
for the presidential elections, people
started taking to the streets in several
neighbourhoods in Bujumbura to
protest against the president’s ambition
to pursue a third mandate.
After more than two weeks of demonstrations
met by fierce repression by the police, on 13
May a dissident group within the armed forces
under the command of general Godefroid
Niyombare attempted a coup. At the time,
President Nkurunziza was in Dar es Salaam
attending a regional summit about the Burundi
crisis. Less than 48 hours later, it became clear
that the plotters had failed to overthrow the
government. These events, and earlier
intimidation in the northern countryside,
sparked massive refugee streams into
neighbouring countries. While President
Nkurunziza managed to re-establish control
over the security forces, the demonstrations and
their violent repression, in which the privately
owned media were also specifically targeted,
continued. The security situation worsened, with
regular grenade attacks in Bujumbura and the
assassination of opposition politician Zedi
Ferudi. In the meantime, the international
community, especially regional players, failed to
come to a harmonised position on the third
term issue. However, by mid-May there was a
large international consensus that the prevailing
conditions were not conducive to holding
elections. Several key donors withdrew their
financial support for the electoral process and
the elections were postponed.
Neither Nkurunziza’s candidacy, nor the
protests or the coup came as a surprise. As the
first section of this brief will show, the issues at
the heart of the current crisis are the
culmination of several dynamics of contestation
and conflict that have emerged in particular
since the 2010 elections. But they are also rooted
in broader frustrations related to the kind of
politics embodied by the CNDD-FDD system
since it came to power. This contribution will
also situate the crisis within a broader analysis of
the post-war peace and state-building project in
Burundi, focusing on a number of key
unresolved problems. To conclude, it will
present a brief analysis of the protest movement
and look into the specific questions the pre-
electoral crisis raises for future Burundian
leaders and the international community.
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
1. The fallout of the 2010 elections
Burundi’s 2010 elections were considered an
important test in several aspects. For the
international community, which has
accompanied Burundi’s transition since the
signing of the Arusha Agreement in 2000, these
second post-war elections constituted a crucial
step in consolidating the considerable progress
achieved so far in peacebuilding and
democratisation. For the incumbent President
Nkurunziza and his CNDD-FDD party, the
elections meant exposure to the electorate after
five years in power marred by institutional
instability, both at the level of government and
parliament and within the party itself. The
party’s behaviour towards the opposition
became increasingly authoritarian, and
opposition parties, including the freshly
demobilised former Forces Nationales de
Libération (FNL) rebellion, hoped that the
unconvincing performance by the CNDD-FDD
would reinforce their own position in the
political landscape.
But even though they were deemed sufficiently
free and fair by various electoral observation
missions, the 2010 elections turned out to be
less than successful in terms of democratic
gains.1 Nor did they contribute to consolidating
progress in the field of peace and security since
the end of the war. As soon as the results of the
communal elections hinted at a major victory for
the CNDD-FDD, most opposition parties
decided to withdraw their participation in the
parliamentary and presidential elections.2 These
1 Palmans, Eva, Burundi's 2010 elections: democracy
and peace at risk?, ECES paper, 2012,
2 The communal elections were the first in a series
that covered all levels of government, from
presidency to hill chiefs, spread over several months.
The campaign for the communal elections didn’t
parties, united under the Alliance for
Democratic Change (ADC-Ikibiri) umbrella,
were however unable to convince the
international community that the elections had
been rigged. As a result, their boycott heralded
not just the beginning of an electoral crisis, with
violence that would last well into 2011, but in
the longer run paved the way for CNDD-FDD
and President Nkurunziza to further a quasi-
monopolistic hold on the country’s institutions.3
As a concise overview of major events and
dynamics in the Burundian political landscape
shows, the 2010 post-electoral crisis almost
seamlessly crossed over into the 2015 pre-
electoral unrest.
In the weeks and months following the 2010
elections, opposition militants, blamed for the
violence, faced severe repression by the state’s
security and intelligence services and clashed
with militants of the CNDD-FDD. In a climate
marked by reports of extrajudicial executions,
harassment and persecution of opposition
militants, several opposition leaders, including
FNL’s Agathon Rwasa and Alexis Sinduhije left
the country.4 At the same time, until well into
2012, a number of relatively minor armed
movements emerged, often clashing with police
and army across the border from neighbouring
Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
When the intensity of post electoral violence
and opposition repression had somewhat
focus on local issues but was centered on parties and
their presidential candidates.
3 CNDD-FDD won over 80% of seats in parliament.
President Nkurunziza faced no competition after the
boycott, and won by over 90% of the votes cast, in a
turnout that was significantly lower than in the local
4 International Crisis Group: Burundi: From
Electoral Boycott To Political Impasse. Africa
Report N°169, 2011,
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
diminished, administrative repression increased.
It has been near impossible for opposition
parties to get permission to organise public
meetings, and ignoring this ban resulted in
clashes with security forces, and even life
sentences for a number of Mouvement pour la
solidarité et le développement (MSD) militants
in March 2014.5 The ministry of the interior
also adopted a tactic of profound meddling in
opposition parties’ internal matters. The most
notable targets were FNL’s Agathon Rwasa,
who returned to Burundi in August 2013, and
Union pour le Progrès National’s (UPRONA)
Charles Nditije, who as legitimate leaders were
disconnected from the legally recognised wings
of their parties.
In another effort by CNDD-FDD to dominate
and control the public sphere, new legislation on
media and on public gatherings was introduced.
Even if these laws didn’t dramatically affect the
role that activists and privately owned media
continued to play, these measures were
indicative of the further deterioration of the
CNDD-FDD government’s relationship with
media and civil society watchdogs, who
increasingly took on a role as de facto political
counter powers in the absence of a functional
parliamentary opposition.
Opposition parties, themselves divided, have not
been able to respond to the shared challenges
they faced after the boycott, let alone transform
the ADC-Ikibri into a performing vehicle with a
common programme and a single candidate, as
was initially proposed. By early 2015, it seemed
to have been eclipsed by a new ‘historical’
coalition between Rwasa’s FNL and Nditije’s
UPRONA, leaders of two parties that were
arch-enemies during the war.
08/201381172611527791.html; ;
The preparations for the electoral process itself
were also fraught with difficulty and
contestation, in particular over the composition
of the Commission Electorale Nationale
Indépendante (CENI), and later over the way
the voter registration process had been handled.
Neither the opposition nor international
partners were reassured about the independent
character of the commission.
The international community, well aware of the
risks this build-up of tension held for the 2015
elections, struggled to find a harmonised and
adequate response to these early warning signals.
Finding itself caught between, on the one hand,
its endorsement of the 2010 election outcome,
respect for Burundi's sovereignty and the
prioritisation of stability over democratic
deepening, and on the other, its dissatisfaction
and concern over the government's increasingly
illiberal and authoritarian tendencies, the
international community has resorted to a
largely tongue-tied diplomatic approach.
One notable intervention was the series of
roundtables initiated in 2013 under the auspices
of the United Nations Office in Burundi
(BNUB). This initiative resulted in an electoral
roadmap for 2015, agreed upon by all political
actors including the government and CENI,
with propositions for a fair and favourable
electoral climate. However, the government
either did not implement crucial measures, or
only implemented them superficially, and the
follow-up by the international community
remained casual at best.
By mid-2014, the temperature in Burundi’s
political landscape was constantly on the rise.
Ongoing reports by local activists and privately
owned media of armament and military training
by CNDD-FDD militants, as well as other
scandals involving the CNDD-FDD elite, 6
6 Most notable was the case of the murder of three
Italian nuns in Kamenge in September 2014. The
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
resulted in the detention of iconic human rights
activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa and journalist
Bob Rugurika of the equally iconic RPA radio
station. Both were eventually released after
considerable international pressure. Upon the
release of Rugurika, an unprecedented number
of people took to the streets in Bujumbura and
beyond in support of the journalist an
important precursor to the anti-third-term
protests. A number of sometimes spectacular
events and dynamics unfolded, including the
brutally suppressed incursion of an unidentified
rebel group in the northern Cibitoke province,7
and the escape of Hussein Radjabu, former
powerful president of the CNDD-FDD, ousted
by Nkurunziza in 2007 and serving a sentence
for plotting against the security of the state.
These events contributed to an accelerated
build-up in tension and were also indicative of
both the increasing rifts within the CNDD-
FDD and of the increased willingness to
publicly express dissatisfaction. Importantly, the
powerful Catholic Church had also very
explicitly embarked on a campaign against a
third mandate for Nkurunziza. One of the most
remarkable developments in this period was the
mounting internal dissatisfaction within the
CNDD-FDD.8 While there have always been
considerable cleavages between former rebels
and civilian members joining after the war, this
time the rift affected the movement’s military
elite itself. In November 2014, Adolphe
Nshimirimana (head of the national intelligence
services or SNR) and Alain Guillaume Bunyoni
(chief of cabinet under the Nkurunziza
presidency), both kingpin generals in the
popular RPA radio station’s investigations pointed
towards the involvement of General Adolphe
Nshimirimana, one of the strongmen of the
Nkurunziza regime.
CNDD-FDD system and associated with
various scandals, were dismissed. 9
Nshimirimana’s successor at the SNR,
Godefroid Niyombare, also a former
commander in the FDD rebellion, underwent
the same fate when a document he had drafted
warning against the dangers of an
unconstitutional third term for President
Nkurunziza went public. Unsurprisingly, later on
Niyombare was one of the leaders of the 13 May
coup. Moreover, in March, dozens of often
senior CNDD-FDD members who had
remained on the periphery of the real power
centre in the party but nevertheless had a lot to
lose signed a petition against an additional term
for Nkurunziza. The latter managed to close the
ranks, secure his candidacy and prepare the
party for elections, but the fragility of the
CNDD-FDD system had been widely exposed
to the public, and this strengthened the resolve
of the president’s opponents.
2. Arusha’s unresolved problems
It is clear that the 2010 electoral crisis deeply
polarised the political landscape in Burundi. But
as the following section will show, more
structural factors also underlie the dynamics of
conflict we are seeing today. While Burundi’s
post-war trajectory, based on the Arusha
Agreement’s power-sharing principles, has been
lauded as one of the good examples of post-war
peace and state building, the shadow sides of
this success story quickly emerged. Several areas
of intervention in the peace building project,
such as democratisation, support to civil society,
and also the question of returning refugees and
land reform, have themselves become important
arenas of contestation and conflict. Moreover, a
number of important problems have remained
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
unresolved by Arusha.10 A closer examination of
power distribution and governance practices
after the war in Burundi shows that the peace
building enterprise, while nonetheless
transformative in many important aspects, has
not been able to bring about a fundamentally
new way of doing politics. Not only have the re-
appropriation of peace building objectives and
interventions by elites contributed to the
entrenchment of a neo-patrimonial political
economy,11 but the prioritisation by donors of
relative stability has also contributed to the
persistence of violence and militarism.12 In many
ways, the CNDD-FDD repertoire, with its
reliance on authoritarian methods, the
persistence of militarism and obsessive control
of the public sphere, echoes the practices of the
old UPRONA regime it once fought. The
following paragraphs will deal with some of the
structural continuities that have crossed into the
post-war era.
Partisan identities and patronage
The Arusha Agreement’s famous article that
deals with the analysis of the nature of the
conflict in Burundi.states that ‘the conflict is
fundamentally political, with extremely
important ethnic dimensions and that it stems
from a struggle of the political class to accede to
and/or remain in power.’ 13 To resolve these
10 For an excellent discussion of power sharing and
the legacy of the Arusha Agreement, see
Vandeginste, S: Arusha at 15: reflections on power-
sharing, peace and transition in Burundi, IOB
Working Paper, 2015,
11 Uvin & Bayer (2013). ‘The Political Economy of
Statebuilding in Burundi’. In Berdal and Zaum (eds),
Political Economy of Statebuilding: Power after
Peace. Abingdon: Routledge
12 Curtis D. (2013), ‘The international peace-building
paradox: power sharing and post-conflict governance
in Burundi’, African Affairs, 112, 446: 72-91
13 Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in
Burundi, Protocol I, Chapter I, Article 4,
problems, the Arusha Agreement and the
constitution based on it combine ethnic power-
sharing provisions essentially quota-based
guarantees that prevent the Tutsi minority being
overpowered by Hutu majority rule with
electoral democratisation.
Much of the applause Burundi has initially
received for its post-war reconciliation efforts
can be credited to the remarkable progress that
has been made in reducing ethnic tensions. The
power-sharing principles of Arusha have
undoubtedly played an important role in this.14
On the other hand, as the previous section has
shown, and the determination of Nkurunziza to
pursue another presidential term continues to
demonstrate, the core political problem of elite
capture of the state has not been resolved by
Arusha. And the diminished importance of
ethnicity also does not mean that identity
politics are no longer part of the repertoire of
those political elites.
In the process of democratisation that started
after the agreement, there has been a
proliferation of political parties. In the 2010
elections there were over 40 parties in
competition. Only a minority of these parties are
viable. However, partisan identities have become
one of the most prominent fault lines in
Burundi today, along which political and
economic inclusion and exclusion is organised.
A number of parties have obviously been better
equipped to construct these identities and
develop a viable, sound, grassroots base. Parties
with a long pedigree in Burundi like UPRONA
and Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi
(FRODEBU) have loyal militants who, for
various reasons, strongly identify with the party.
14 Interestingly, much of the demystification of
ethnicity in recent years in Burundi is also connected
to the way political competition and violence are
now mainly being played out among parties with a
predominantly Hutu profile.
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
Newcomer MSD has managed to establish itself
in the political marketplace with an assertive,
and to many in Burundi, aggressive style,
speaking to the lifestyles and aspirations of
urban and educated youth. The most outspoken
and deep-rooted construction of party identities
can be found with CNDD-FDD and FNL, who
both rely on their rebellious past.
Where ethnic and regional fault lines determined
the inequalities in distribution of state resources
that led to conflict in the single-party state era,15
patronage is now increasingly structured along
partisan lines. Since its electoral victory in 2005,
and even more so since the opposition boycott
of the 2010 elections, the CNDD-FDD party
has exercised a quasi-monopoly over the state
and its resources. As such, it has been able to
build, from top to bottom, a system of
patronage around its own party structures. On
all scales and levels, affiliation to these structures
has become the main factor for acquiring access
to state resources. Being part – or not of what
is commonly called ‘le système’ considerably
determines livelihoods and opportunities for
Burundians today, for example, whether they are
able to benefit from subsidised agricultural
inputs at the hill level, have a chance at
employment at any level of public
administration, are granted scholarships to study
abroad or wish to set up a private enterprise or
keep it in business.
This has become an important source of
frustration for many people who do not want to
adhere to the CNDD-FDD and more so for
known sympathisers of other parties. But it is
also an increasing problem for CNDD-FDD
itself, as not all members have been able to
benefit in the same way from their association
15 Ndikumana, L: Distributional conflict, the state,
and peace building in Burundi, working paper,2005
with the party. 16 Again, this internal
dissatisfaction occurs on all levels, as became
clear in the ‘frondeur’ dissident movement that
emerged in March 2015.
Militarised politics
Partisan identities are not only important for
understanding processes of inclusion and
exclusion, but are also mobilised into various
forms of violent political agency, as has become
clear in recent years. Thus they also play a role
in another major issue that Arusha has not been
able to resolve: the militarisation of politics and
the use of coercion and violence by political
actors competing for power.
The phenomenon most associated with post-
war identity politics and political violence are the
Imbonerakure17 the CNDD-FDD’s vanguard
youth league. Many of the thousands of
members of the league don’t fit in to the general
representation of this group as an armed and
dangerous militia, and are more involved in
participation in public work campaigns and
propaganda activities than in violence. But there
is undeniably a hardcore of former combatants,
especially in the countryside, who have
increasingly played a central role in policing
public space, extortion and intimidation of
opposition militants in recent years. There is
little doubt that several of the Imbonerakure
groups operating locally have access to arms,
and there are several credible reports that some
contingents have been specifically formed,
armed and trained for combat, both in South
Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and
in Burundi.
16 Author interviews with CNDD-FDD militants in
17 Kirundi for ‘those who see ahead’. During the war,
Imbonerakure youth carried out logistical support
and reconnaissance operations for the FDD
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
However seriously their capacity for violence
should be taken, it makes little sense to regard
the Imbonerakure phenomenon in an isolated
way. Rather than being linked to the army itself,
the militarisation of the CNDD-FDD regime is
determined by institutions, networks and
individuals rooted in its former existence as a
rebel movement. These ‘old-boys’ networks
cross the boundaries between executive
institutions, the army, security and intelligence
services and party structures, and stretch from
the level of high ranking elites close to President
Nkurunziza, to the former combatants of the
FDD rebellion at the grassroots level. At the
nexus of this entanglement between official and
informal networks is a small group of former
FDD rebel commanders, commonly referred to
as ‘the generals’. 18 These individuals around
Nkurunziza also play an important role in
Burundi’s post-war political economy, as they
are at the top of the food chain in the patronage
networks linked to CNDD-FDD.
While Burundian and international activists have
mostly focused on the Imbonerakure as the
main source for recent violence, the post-war
militarisation of politics cannot be attributed
solely to the CNDD-FDD and its rebel legacy.
Other political actors have also maintained a
capacity for violence. Since the 2010 elections, a
number of armed insurgent groups have
surfaced. Some have been associated with
parties and politicians that took part in the
electoral boycott, such as the FNL’s Agathon
Rwasa and MSD’s Alexis Sinduhije.19 Most of
18 The most notorious members of this group are the
previously mentioned Adolphe Nshimirimana and
Alain Guillaume Bunyoni. Both have been dismissed
from their official posts but continue to play a
crucial role.
19 United Nations Group of Experts on the
Democratic Republic of Congo (GoE), 2010, Final
Group-of-Experts-Report-November-2010 and
2011, final report:
these groups operated across the borders with
neighbouring Tanzania and the Democratic
Republic of Congo, sometimes venturing in the
Rukoko reserve or the Kibira forest. By 2012,
almost all these groups had dissolved or been
neutralised by the Burundian armed forces.
However, the FNL-Nzabampema faction in
South Kivu, which before MONUSCO-led
operations against them in early 2015 was
reported to consist of over 300 combatants,
continues to operate under the command of
FDN defectors with a historic background in
FNL.20 Their presence has caused insecurity on
both sides of the border in the Ruzizi plain.
By the end of April, it became clear that Burundi
would be the next African country to experience
large-scale popular protest. Demonstrations had
been called for by civil society organisations and
opposition parties, but were clearly driven by
urban youth, and tacitly supported by larger
parts of society. While it is still early to draw
conclusions, some observations of these
protests raise a number of pertinent questions
about ‘what comes next’.
Firstly, the demonstrations in several
neighbourhoods of Bujumbura were sparked by
the announcement of the president’s candidacy.
But there is little doubt that the protests are
fuelled by a much broader set of grievances and
frustrations, most notably the lack of economic
and social perspectives, and the increased sense
of insecurity caused by the system described
above. Thus the protests should not only be
regarded as a way to rescue the Arusha
20 For a more in-depth discussion on the background
of this group and operations against this group, see
Verweijen, J: ‘Understanding the recent operation
against the FNL/Nzabampema’,2015,
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
Agreement and its clear rulings on presidential
term limits, but also as a response to the
problems Arusha did not manage to resolve:
elite capture of the state, corruption, militarism,
patronage and exclusion.
Secondly, while popular uprisings are not a new
phenomenon in Africa, and the series of street
protests in several African countries in recent
years can be seen as part of a third wave of
African protest,21 it should be noted that, some
exceptions aside, Burundi has no significant
tradition of mass demonstrations. Especially in
the post-war era, the protests, which so far have
been largely devoid of partisan displays, might
well mark a generational shift and constitute ‘a
new way of doing politics’, an alternative to
armed struggle as the only means of resistance.22
In the words of one participant: ‘From now on,
leaders will realise that the street will always be a
way to contest their power.’23 However, in the
face of brutal police repression, the nonviolent
character of the protests has come under
pressure. Especially since the coup attempt,
some protestors have claimed and procured
arms to defend themselves. If the stand-off
continues, it is not unlikely that new rebellions
could be formed, this time with a larger
potential for recruitment than in the aftermath
of the 2010 elections.
Thirdly, the government has been quick to
depict the protests as a marginal phenomenon,
concentrated in a few urban areas but not
affecting the rest of the country, and CNDD-
FDD propagandists branded the protests as a
21 In relation to the anti-colonial struggle and the
early 1990s democratisation movements, see Branch,
A. & Mampilly, Z. (2015): Africa Uprising. Popular
Protest and political change, African Arguments.
London: Zed Books.
22 Mamdani, M. ‘An African reflection on Tahrir
23 Author’s correspondence with participants in the
phenomenon of Tutsi neighbourhoods. These
claims don’t do justice to reality. In several of
these neighbourhoods, Hutu youth from the
hills and plains surrounding the capital have
joined the protest. Unsurprisingly, in one of the
world’s least urbanised countries, protests have
been largely a phenomenon of the capital.
However, there have also been, on a more
modest scale, but nevertheless persistently,
several demonstrations in rural areas, from
Bururi to Ngozi, suggesting that the narrative of
the Nkurunziza’s rural popularity should be
somewhat readjusted.
Finally, the failed, and according to some, fake
coup attempt,24 was also a clear reminder of the
potential for a militarisation of the contestation
dynamic. Not only was it detrimental to the
momentum of the demonstrations, and caused
more violent repression of the protestors, it also
laid bare significant divisions within the armed
forces. Even when the FDN’s recent track
record became somewhat flawed,25 there was a
consensus that the reform of the army in
Burundi, based on integrating the former armed
forces with the fighters forming the rebel
movements, had been a success story, further
illustrated by its role in African peacekeeping
missions like AMISOM in Somalia.26 During and
after the 2010 electoral contestation, when the
army was deployed in several hotspots like the
FNL-stronghold Bujumbura Rural, it was lauded
for its neutral role, and at least until the coup
attempt, this also seemed to be the case for the
25 Most notably the Burundian army’s shady
presence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,
and its implication in the extrajudicial executions of
captured and disarmed rebels in Cibitoke (Human
Rights Watch,
summary-executions-army-police )
26 Ndayiziga, C. Enjeux autour de l’intervention du
Burundi en Somalie, Egmont Africa Policy Brief,
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
way the army had handled the anti-Nkurunziza
demonstrations. Since the coup, this neutrality
has come under pressure. Moreover, the
cleavages and dissatisfaction manifest in the
army could lead to a new coup attempt, or feed
into other forms of armed resistance in the
absence of a solution to the third term question.
Fifteen years after the Arusha Agreement, and
ten years into Burundi’s post-war
democratisation process, there are serious
concerns that Burundi’s once much-applauded
progress in reconciliation and state building
could be reversed. As expected, after the 2010
crisis, the 2015 elections have also proven to be
a serious test for Burundi’s post-war
On the one hand, while many warned about a
return to ethnic tensions and large scale
violence, and the CNDD-FDD increasingly
played the ethnic card, events so far have rather
confirmed the diminished importance of ethnic
divisions after Arusha. This is clearly shown by
the coalition between former enemies FNL and
UPRONA, and even more so by the multi-
ethnic nature of the protests. Moreover, the
largely non-partisan, non-violent and citizen
nature of the protest movement hints at the
desire for a more emancipatory form of
democracy, which breaks with the political
patterns that have reproduced exclusion and
violence in the wake of the war.
However, the crisis also raises important
questions and challenges, both for Burundian
leaders and in terms of international response.
In the short term, there is a considerable risk of
a militarisation of the contestation movement,
which could take on many forms and manifest
itself on various scales, ranging from urban
guerrilla attacks to regional conflict. Apart from
a negotiated solution to the third mandate
problem, the risk of further violent escalation
could be defused by restoring faith in the
electoral process as a means to achieve political
change. In order to do so, even taking the
minimum number of measures will require
much more time than the modest
postponements that have so far been on the
table. These measures would include the
creation of a new, truly independent national
electoral commission, restoring the
infrastructures of privately owned media and
ensuring they can operate freely, guaranteeing
equal access to the public sphere all over the
country for all political parties and politicians,
ensuring the security of opposition leaders and
facilitating the return of refugees. This means
that if these measures are to be implemented, a
solution will have to be found to bridge the
period between the constitutional deadline of 26
August for a president to be sworn in, and new
elections. This will be a very tough sell for
Nkurunziza and his supporters. Moreover, for
such confidence-building measures to be
credible in the eyes of opposition and
protestors, serious engagement from the
international community, including active
implication in oversight and monitoring
mechanisms, would be required.
In the longer term, there are other, more
fundamental questions that need the attention of
future Burundian leaders and their international
partners. Fifteen years of peace building and a
decade of formal multiparty democracy have not
been able to transform the nature of state power
and its relationship with society. At the time of
writing, it is unclear how and when the electoral
process will proceed. However, it is clear that
whatever settlement or order results from the
current stand-off will not only need to reply to
the immediate grievances of the street but also
address some of the structural unresolved
problems of peace building that underlie the
current dynamics of contestation and conflict.
Donors and regional actors should be more
EGMONT Royal Institute for International Relations
September 2009
sensitive to the long-term problems that result
from their prioritisation of stability.
Tomas Van Acker is a Research Fellow at the
Conflict Research Group of Ghent University
The Africa Policy Brief is a publication of Egmont, the Royal
Institute for International Relations
Royal Institute for International Relations
Rue des Petits Carmes, 24 A
1000 Brussels
The opinions expressed in this Policy Brief are those of the authors
and are not those of EGMONT, Royal Institut e for Interna tional
Full-text available
Violence based on identity constructs reinforces the experience of ethnic boundaries as felt distance between in-groups and out-groups. But what makes such an experience of rigid ethnic boundaries fade or disappear, if anything? We examined this in Burundi, a country characterised by repeated episodes of violence between Hutu and Tutsi since independence. We analysed the waxing and waning of ethnic boundaries through the (life) stories of 202 individuals collected through an iterative research process in two rural villages that were seriously touched by (ethnic) violence. Rigid boundaries between ethnic in- and out-group appeared to fade through non-violent interactions; when categorisations other than ethnic emerged; and when awareness of interstitiality, being in-between salient groups, contested the relevance and meaning of the ethnic boundary as such. These insights invite us to bring in multiple temporalities and identities when aiming to understand legacies of violence in conflict-affected societies such as Burundi. This would allow us to avoid treating groups as substantial entities, which reinforces boundaries between in-groups and out-groups.
Ditulis untuk Departemen Ilmu Hubungan Internasional UGM. (Written for Department of International Relations Universitas Gadjah Mada).
Neuere Forschung zu Legitimität verweist auf die Relevanz verschiedener Strategien mit deren Hilfe autoritäre Regime versuchen sich zu legitimieren. Bislang konzentrierte sich diese Forschung auf innerstaatliche Legitimationsstrategien, wobei die Anerkennung respektive Aberkennung von Legitimität durch internationale Akteure vernachlässigt wurde. In diesem Kapitel argumentieren wir jedoch, dass in der Analyse von Legitimationsstrategien das Zusammenspiel von innerstaatlichen und internationalen (De)Legitimationsdynamiken betrachtet werden muss. Entsprechend gehen wir in diesem Kapitel folgenden, die Forschung leitende Annahmen für autoritäre Regime nach. Erstens: Im Umgang mit autoritären Regimen werden Fragen der Legitimität und Legitimation lokaler Regime durch internationale Akteure untergeordnet behandelt. Zweitens: Durch ihren Einfluss auf autoritäre Legitimationsstrategien können internationale Akteure ungewollt zur Konsolidierung autoritärer Regime beitragen. Diese Annahmen beziehen sich auf die übergeordnete Forschungsfrage, inwiefern und mit welchem Effekt Legitimationsdynamiken autoritäre Legitimationsstrategien beeinflussen. Dieses Kapitel adressiert diese Fragen anhand der verschiedenen Legitimationsdynamiken vor, während und nach den Wahlen 2015 in Burundi. Wie das Beispiel Burundis zeigt, können internationale Akteure ein Regime durch ihre Intervention stärken. Paradoxerweise geschieht dies nicht nur durch Regime-legitimierende Strategien, sondern auch durch delegitimierende Aktivitäten. Daraus ergibt sich für internationale Akteure die Notwendigkeit, Legitimationsstrategien von Regierungen besser zu analysieren um deren strategische Adaption an legitimierende oder delegitimierende Aktivitäten zu antizipieren.
Die Legitimität politischer Ordnung ist in den letzten Jahren zu einem wichtigen Referenzpunkt für die Analyse politischer Regime geworden. Das Konzept ist aber schwierig zu operationalisieren und zu messen – vor allem in Ländern, wo Legitimität eine besonders wichtige Ressource zu sein scheint (Fälle politischer Transformation und hoher Staatsfragilität). Dieses Kapitel gibt einen Überblick über den Forschungsstand. Es werden vier Messdimensionen unterschieden, die auf einem dialogischen Verständnis von Legitimität beruhen. Legitimierung, also die strategische Einwerbung von Legitimität, wird einerseits als Prozess verstanden, bei dem Legitimitätserwartungen der politischen Subjekte mit Leistungen des politischen Regimes verknüpft werden. Andererseits treffen die Legitimitätsansprüche der Herrschenden auf beobachtbare Verhaltensmuster der Beherrschten. Der Literaturüberblick macht deutlich, dass der dialogische Charakter von Legitimität nicht immer berücksichtigt wird. Im Ergebnis messen existierende Ansätze oft nur einzelne Aspekte von Legitimität bzw. verfehlen den Kern des Konzepts sogar völlig.
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The adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) has been a milestone for the transformation of Africa's political landscape. This instrument seeks to expand on the ideals of liberal democracy enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and other African fundamental instruments. The ACDEG seems to pave the way for the right to democracy for Africans, which entails, inter alia, political sovereignty of African citizens. The latter have clearly and vigorously exercised their sovereignty through elections when given such an opportunity. However, in some instances, African citizens resorted to popular uprisings in cases of gross violations of their democracy-related rights. With reference to the recent popular uprisings and coups (or attempted coups) in Africa, this article enquires, from a human rights perspective, whether ACDEG or other instruments, enshrine a right to resist gross undemocratic practices underpinning the right to democracy.
Recent scholarship has observed a changing trend in patterns of conflict in Africa, from rural armed violence to urban protest and rioting. In 2015, Burundi's capital Bujumbura saw mass demonstrations against a third term for president Nkurunziza. After being met with fierce repression and hijacked by a failed military coup attempt, the protest movement quickly militarized into an urban guerrilla campaign. The Nkurunziza regime, which is rooted in a Hutu rebel movement and has an explicit rural powerbase, was quick to denounce the uprising as an urban phenomenon, limited to specific neighborhoods which during the civil war acquired an explicit Tutsi character. Rather than reading these protests as a shift from rural to urban contestation, this article explains recent events by looking at Bujumbura's historical trajectory through war and peace. An analysis of the interaction between socio-spatial legacies of conflict, identity and power reveals a nuanced picture of the recent uprising, with not only important intra-urban variations but also a less dichotomous relationship between city and the rural hinterlands than is often assumed in Burundi, one of the least urbanized countries in the world.
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Regional Evidence Papers are an output of the ELLA Programme. They contain an overview of regional evidence, as well as original data collection and analysis, on a particular research topic. A pair of Regional Evidence Papers are produced on each topic, one focused on Latin America and one on Africa, using a common research question and design. This Regional Evidence Paper is paired with a sister paper whose title is The Deficits in Accountability in Argentina: A tale of Two Worlds authored by CIPPEC in Argentina. Based on this two regional papers, a Comparative Evidence Paper is constructed , comparing the experiences of the two regions, in order to support interregional lesson-learning. All publications can be found in the ELLA programme website.
Full-text available
In Burundi, a small landlocked post-conflict country in Central Africa, the independent broadcasting sector was severely undermined in May 2015, following a coup attempt against the regime of President Pierre Nkurunziza. More than 80 journalists, some of them accused of being accomplices to the putschists, were threatened and forced to leave the country. Their outlets were damaged and forbidden to operate. Shown as a model of ‘professionalism’, ‘independence’ and ‘pluralism’ until then, journalism in Burundi has subsequently faced huge challenges, both inside the country (where the space for free speech keeps shrinking despite a pluralist façade) and outside (where Burundian journalists in exile have established alternative media). This article identifies how the professional identity of the journalists has been affected by these two phenomena: the challenges of working from abroad as well as the growing control on free media faced by those still operating from within the country. Based on extensive interviews, the author shows the extent to which Burundian journalists have lost self-confidence and trust in their ability to perform their professional ethos and the role they believe they should play in society.
Enjeux autour de l'intervention du Burundi en Somalie
  • C Ndayiziga
Ndayiziga, C. Enjeux autour de l'intervention du Burundi en Somalie, Egmont Africa Policy Brief,