Category Archives: Burundi

Why Kagame’s reelection in Rwanda will be different than Nkurunziza’s

kagame

Two small African neighboring countries. Both are densely populated with between 10 and 12 million people. Both have emerged from Tutsi-Hutu civil wars in the past two decades. burundirwanda

Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza seems headed for a difficult and bloody reelection against the will of a large segment of the Burundian people and arguably in violation of the constitution’s prohibition on serving more than two consecutive terms. Though Nkurunziza unconvincingly argues he is running for his second term under the current constitution, the Arusha Accords that ended Burundi’s civil war made it clear that Nkurunziza should get up to a decade in power — not 15 years (or, potentially, more).

Nkurunziza’s push for a third term resulted in a brutal crackdown over the past 18 months amid growing political violence, twice necessitating the delay of an election originally scheduled for June. When election results, the first of which are scheduled to be announced later Friday, show that Nkurunziza easily won reelection, many Burundians will refuse to recognize the victory, and there’s a chance that Burundi could collapse into greater violence — or even civil war.

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RELATED: Rwandan election highlights tension between ethnic, economic stability and authoritarianism

RELATED: Nkurunziza’s reelection effort brings violence in Burundi

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Next door in Rwanda, however, president Paul Kagame seems preparing for reelection in 2017, notwithstanding constitutional term limits. Unlike Nkurunziza, if Kagame (pictured above) does find a way to seek another term, he will largely do so to the widespread acclaim and genuine approval of the Rwandan people — and with the assent of Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies, which passed a law earlier this week that will allow Kagame to run for a third term in his own right, in response to a petition signed by 3.7 million Rwandans.

While Nkurunziza has suffered international condemnation for pushing forward with reelection, Kagame will almost certainly receive far less scrutiny if, as expected, he runs for another term in 2017.

Kagame isn’t immune to political repression — the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) controls an effectively one-party country where opposition leaders or journalists are harassed or imprisoned, sometimes to the point of exile.

So what’s with the double standard? Continue reading Why Kagame’s reelection in Rwanda will be different than Nkurunziza’s

Nkurunziza’s reelection effort brings violence in Burundi

bujumburaPhoto credit to AFP.

It was all so very predictable and very preventable. burundi

The decision by Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in the country’s upcoming May 26 elections is spawning a violent and deadly response in a country where Nkurunziza’s agreement to presidential term limits was a key element of the Arusha peace accords that ended the landlocked east African country’s civil war over a decade ago.

Amid growing repression in the last two years, and reports of intensified attacks at the hands of the Imbonerakure, a militia and youth wing of the country’s governing party, Nkurunziza’s push to win a third consecutive term in office now threatens to engulf the country once again in political violence that could morph into deeper ethnic conflict. Nkurunziza and his advisers are taking the position that because he was appointed to the presidency in 2005 and elected in 2010, he is technically entitled to run for a ‘second’ term in 2015. Nevertheless, political opposition figures and international observers alike disagree strongly with that rationale.

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RELATED: As world remembers Rwanda genocide,
Burundi tilts into political crisis

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With protesters defying government efforts to disperse crowds in the capital city of Bujumbura, a handful of people have already been killed, and aid workers report that hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homes. In addition, reports indicate that Burundi’s borders were being closed today to foreigners trying to enter the country, and the government is shutting down independent radio outlets.

I wrote last summer for The National Interest just how toxic a Nkurunziza reelection bid could become. Above all, the political instability exacerbates the lack of foreign investment in Burundi, which is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest countries. Descent into further political chaos, and resulting internal displacements, would only emphasize the widespread poverty and lack of development throughout the country.

The best-case scenario for Burundi would be for Nkurunziza to rethink his reelection plans. It’s difficult to fathom that the governing Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD, National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy) would lose power, even without Nkurunziza leading it as a formal matter. Conceivably, Nkurunziza might even continue to exercise discretion over top government functions, even if he is no longer Burundi’s head of state.

If Nkurunziza goes forward for a third term, the opposition will almost certainly boycott the vote, as they did in 2010 when the process was deemed unfair and unfree. That’s not a great outcome, and it would invalidate the election, as a matter of international opinion. That, however, would still be much better than a slide into civil war. Avoiding further bloodshed as the 2015 vote approaches is more important than achieving a milestone for democracy in a country where democracy has never been a priority — and will not be a priority in the midst of a violent clash. The risk is that political confrontation will eventually mutate into the kind of ethnic hatred between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority that devastated neighboring Rwanda and culminated in the 1994 genocide. No one today believes that Burundi is necessarily destined for ethnic conflict, but a new civil war, based on either political or ethnic differences, should be a major concern for regional leaders.

Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, met with Nkurunziza earlier this month, ostensibly to discuss the rising number of Burundian refugees fleeing to Rwanda. But the term-limited Kagame has pledged to step down as Rwanda’s president in 2017, and there are already rumors he may seek to extend his own mandate. Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete in March warned Nkurunziza not to seek a third term, imploring him to respect the terms of the Arusha accords signed in Kikwete’s country a decade ago.

CAR and Burundi: From civil war to democracy and… back?

ngaissonaGuest post by Kevin Buettner

Though democracy may not yet be entrenched in central Africa, 2015 marks a pivotal step in the history of at least two countries in the region — one that is potentially transitioning from war to democracy and another now in danger of losing its democracy to further civil unrest or even outright war.centrafrique flagburundi

The Central African Republic is preparing for presidential and legislative elections in August 2015, which its leaders hope will be a crucial step on the path to peace. Until the end of 2014, the country was in the midst of a brutal civil war that has displaced over a million people. The conflict continues, though the major armed groups have officially disarmed and rebranded themselves into political parties.

The Parti centrafricain pour l’unité et le développement (PCUD, Central African Party for Unity and Development), headed by Patrice Edouard Ngaissona (pictured above), evolved from the anti-Balaka (literally, ‘anti-machete’) armed rebel group that formed in response to the Séléka movement that brought former president Michael Djotodia to power for four brief months at the end of 2013.

The competing Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC, Union for Peace in the Central African Republic) is the largest of the parties formed from the Séléka alliance. Led by general Ali Djarass, the UPC was the first faction of the Séléka armed groups to disarm and join the transitional government in ceasefire accords needed prior to the elections. Other minor parties, general Joseph Zoundeko’s RPRC (Patriotic Movement for New Central African Republic) and general Nourredine Adam’s Séléka party have also disarmed and joined the political arena ahead of the upcoming elections.

The PCUD, supported by the country’s majority Christian population, is likeliest to succeed in those elections. Whichever party wins, however, the next government will face the immediate and urgent task of repatriating nearly half a million refugees from neighboring states; settling internally displaced citizens; rebuilding schools, hospitals, and other needed infrastructure; and establishing a governmental presence outside of Bangui. There will also be a call from both sides, joined by the international community, to bring perpetrators of atrocities committed during the civil war to justice. Referring cases to the International Criminal Court might be easier than attempting to try the offenders in the CAR, which will remain bitterly divided from the conflict.

Some lessons on how to accomplish the task may be found in Burundi, a country in the great lakes region of Africa, southeast of the Central African Republic. In 2006, Burundi ended a prolonged civil war and held relatively free and fair elections. Though Burundi had a democratically elected leader in Pierre Nkurunziza, its president is now threatening to throw the country into a period of unrest by running for a third term in office. His refusal to step down after his second term and the anticipated amending of the constitution to allow for further presidential reelection has discouraged engagement by opposition parties within Burundi.

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RELATED: As world remembers Rwanda genocide,
Burundi tilts into political crisis

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The only semi-organized opposition to the ruling Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD, National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy) is the Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-IKIBIRI), which represents a merger of most of the remaining opposition parties from the prior 2010 elections. The alliance, however, has not solidified behind a single candidate to challenge the incumbent. With elections to be held in June, their time to mount an effective campaign may have already run out.

International money is flowing into both countries ahead of the elections in order to establish necessary voting infrastructure. CAR has received nearly $22 million and Burundi received $9.2 million from the European Union alone. For the elections in Burundi or CAR to be considered successful by the international community, the opposition must remain engaged in the political process and put forth viable candidates. These candidates, ideally, are not figures likely to become subjects of future ICC indictments (especially in CAR), which would serve to detract from the situations at hand.

Peace in both countries is expected to remain extremely fragile in the months leading up to the elections. To reduce the chances that the losing party will rearm and try to take power by force, power-sharing agreements may be necessary. Such arrangements are facilitated in the Burundian constitution through the mechanism of electing two vice presidents, one from each of the major Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Perhaps the best-case scenario for both countries would be a small majority of votes going to the ruling (or in the case of CAR, the larger PCUD party). Having a narrow mandate would force the ruling party to collaborate more often with the opposition, allowing them more legitimacy, in turn, for future elections.

Kevin Buettner is a graduate student from The Ohio State University studying City and Regional Planning with an interest in international development.

15 in 2015: Fifteen world elections to watch in 2015

2015Photo credit to letyg84 / 123RF.

Over the past 12 months, the world witnessed a pivotal general election in India, presidential elections in Indonesia, congressional midterm elections in the United States, European parliamentary elections and elections (of varying competitiveness) in over a dozen of additional countries in the world, all pivotal in their own ways — Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, South Africa, Japan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine, Bosnia, Belgium, Sweden and independence referenda in Scotland and Catalunya.

After such a crowded 2014 calendar, it’s not surprising that 2015 will not bring the same volume of electoral activity. But there’s still plenty at stake, especially as volatile oil prices, Chinese economic slowdown and the return of recession in Europe and Japan could stifle global economic potential. The most important of those elections that will determine policy that affects the lives of billions of people worldwide.

Without further ado, here is Suffragio‘s guide to the top 15 elections to watch as 2015 unfolds — beginning in Greece, where the government fell earlier this week.  Continue reading 15 in 2015: Fifteen world elections to watch in 2015

Burundi sets presidential election for June 26, 2015

Pierre-Nkurunziza-

The troubled east African country of Burundi has set its parliamentary and presidential election dates, establishing the timeline by which Burundi’s fragile government could fall into political (or even ethnic) conflict.burundi

Burundi will hold parliamentary elections on May 26, 2015 with its presidential election to take place exactly one month later on June 26.

Isolated as the poorest and the only French-speaking country within the mostly English-speaking East African Community (EAC), Burundi has increasingly assumed an atmosphere of fear and repression as the 2015 elections approach. It’s widely believed that Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza is planning to seek a third term in office, despite constitution restrictions to the contrary.

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RELATED: As world remembers Rwanda genocide,
Burundi tilts into political crisis

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That’s left the Burundian opposition increasingly soured on participating the upcoming vote, and it could well boycott the 2015 elections, much as it did the 2010 elections.

Even if Nkurunziza declines to run, pulling back from the brink of a political crisis, his governing Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie–Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD, National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy) will almost certainly try to keep a tight grip on power. With the increasing stranglehold that Nkurunziza has taken over the country in the past decade, however, that shouldn’t prove difficult.  Continue reading Burundi sets presidential election for June 26, 2015