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 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.
* * * * *
RELATED: As world remembers Rwanda genocide,
Burundi tilts into political crisis
* * * * *
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
I write for The National Interest on Thursday that as the world continues remembering the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the deaths of 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans in three harrowing months in 1994, the world is largely ignoring Rwanda’s southern neighbor, Burundi, as it slips further into a political crisis that could drag Burundi back into ethnic violence that marked its own civil war in the 1990s:
As the 2015 election approaches, however, [president Pierre] Nkurunziza (pictured above) has steamrolled the post-Arusha constitutional consensus by pushing through an election law that could allow him to run for reelection, despite growing opposition. Last year, Nkurunziza introduced a tough new law restricting press freedom amid a wider crackdown on journalists. This year has brought even more restrictions on political assembly and casual gatherings, and the imprisonment of regime opponents after a clash between protesters and the police in the capital, Bujumbura. The leading opposition figure, Alexis Sinduhije, a Tutsi and former journalist who heads the cross-ethnic Movement for Solidarity and Development coalition, was arrested earlier this spring in Belgium after fleeing Burundi, though Belgian officials subsequently released him. The government has also persecuted members of the National Forces of Liberation (FNL), the last major Hutu rebel group to sign the Arusha accords (in 2008). Numerous reports that the CNDD-FDD is arming its youth militia, the Imbonerakure, were sufficient to cause significant concern within Burundi’s UN peacekeeping force earlier this year. That’s especially chilling in light of the role that similar Hutu youth militias, known as the Interahamwe, played in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
I add that the international community could play a role in boosting Burundi’s fortunes through greater investment:
That doesn’t mean there aren’t promising areas of development. Incredibly, Burundians have known since the 1970s that their tiny country holds at least 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves. So far, however, those mineral deposits have gone unexploited. Investment to develop Burundi’s industrial capacity and its ability to process nickel ore would be a game-changer. So would investment to improve Burundi’s road and rail infrastructure, allowing nickel (as well as coffee, bananas and other agricultural products) to more easily reach a major port, like Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Moreover, for a country that’s still 90 percent rural, more efficient agricultural technologies could liberate a significant part of the population for more rigorous education and, ultimately, a more broad-based, services-heavy economy. With a median age of seventeen, Burundi is one of the ten ‘youngest’ countries in the world. Therefore, improvements in education could greatly benefit its youthful population and the country’s developmental future.
But none of this can happen under the penumbra of increasing political violence or the threat of further civil war, whether it’s Hutu-against-Tutsi or Hutu-against-Hutu. Though a surge of development might ameliorate some of the worst of Burundi’s political tensions, greater political stability is a prerequisite for attracting the investment that Burundi needs to fuel that growth. As in many of Africa’s struggling states, Burundi is trapped in a tragic “catch-22.”