From April 2015, Burundi has fallen gradually into conflict. Starting with peaceful demonstrations against the candidacy of Pierre Nkurunziza in the presidential elections, more than 200,000 people have now fled the country, thousands have been arrested, a failed coup d’état has taken place and hundreds of people have been killed. While international actors are trying to bring different parties to the negotiating table, Burundi is mutating into an ever more complex situation with no straightforward solution in sight. But one should first understand the background to the 2015 electoral crisis outlining the causes and the drivers of the current conflict. It begins with a discussion of the positions at the two ends of the Burundian political spectrum with regard to the electoral process and the resulting violence. Then the discussion on how the current political and security struggles in Burundi have affected the relationship with its immediate neighbor Rwanda.
Over a year ago on the 26th of April 2015, thousands of Burundians took to the streets of Bujumbura following the announcement of the ruling CNDD-FDD party that the incumbent president Pierre Nkurunzinza would run for a third term despite a two term constitutional limit (International Business Times,2016).This attempt by the government to revise the country’s constitution signaled trouble because such revisions eliminated restrictions on the number of terms an individual can serve as president, conveniently allowing the incumbent President, Pierre Nkurunziza, to go beyond the current two term limit. Hence it directly challenged the concessional power-sharing system agreed on at Arusha that ended Burundi’s civil war, less than a decade ago in 2006 undermining the delicate and carefully-designed ethnic balance it set for Burundi’s institutions and which have brought the country 10 years of peace after decades of Hutu-Tutsi massacres (Yahoo news, 2015).
The president’s announcement of a third term did not as quickly bring a resolution. Instead, Burundi’s unrest has evolved into a crisis with street clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups, grenade violence targeting police, militia violence against IDPs attempting to flee, and security agents conducting searches and arrests of suspected rebels throughout the country. In the beginning of the crisis, attacks on civilians were centralized in and around the capital Bujumbura. As time went by, these attacks and civilian fatalities have become prevalent across the country. Local reporting indicates that violence against civilians has largely been carried out against opposition supporters and civilians trying to flee violence; this violence was carried out by government forces or affiliates of the government (ACLED 2016).
The current Burundian crisis has been monitored closely by local, regional and international media. Calls have been made by various actors both State and non-state actors to implore the government of Burundi to stop the violence in the country.
Rwanda is one of the parties concerned about this crisis.
According to Radio France International-Africa (RFI-Afrique), on 8th November 2015, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was worried about the situation in Burundi. He noted that the problems in Burundi fall back on Rwanda and that Burundi should take sole responsibility in the crisis, instead of blaming Rwanda. He advised that Burundi should learn from what happened in Rwanda and insisted that Rwanda should preserve and keep fighting for its peace.The emission also indicated that relations between the two countries had dwindled as Bujumbura accused Kigali of 7 the latter’s opponents.(wwwrfifr, 2015)
- Some Burundians fled to neighboring countries after pre-election violence
Emmanuel Tabi Ebot
Hazel Nelima Were
Joyflo Wanjiru Wanjiku
Yussuf Abdinoor Abdullahi