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View on Africa: Burundi's uncertain political future
Date: 15 July 2015
Time: 11h00 - 12h00
Venue: Situation Room, Block C, ISS Pretoria (map) and online: VoiceBoxer

The issue

More than two months have passed since widespread protests began against a third term for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. Since then, the government has forged ahead with parliamentary elections on 29 June in spite of widespread instability in the country and a tense standoff with the political opposition. Security crackdowns, human rights violations and armed attacks by unknown groups have become common.

Initially critical of Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, the African Union and the East African Community (EAC) have since backed down. The EAC meeting on the Burundi crisis in early July avoided the issue entirely, recommending instead a two-week delay of the presidential election, now scheduled for 21 July. Although the government has not yet responded, Abdoulaye Bathily, UN Special Envoy to Central Africa and former mediator in the Burundi crisis, says that regional leaders have failed Burundi.

In this week’s briefing, ISS researcher in Nairobi, Dr Yolande Bouka, discussed the implications of going ahead with presidential elections, and the possibility of a return to full-scale civil war.

Key points

  • The CNDD-FDD won a crushing victory during the parliamentary elections on 29 June, while the opposition boycotted the process. UN observers in Burundi reported that the elections were not free and fair, and were characterised by fear and intimidation.
  • Approximately 145 000 refugees are currently in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC, with an average of 200 Burundian refugees crossing to Rwanda each day.
  • Insecurity remains a pressing issue as explosions and gunshots are regularly and increasingly heard at night in the capital. Reports of extra-judicial killings by the government and assassinations of pro-government partisans have been reported in the countryside.
  • Former intelligence officer and putsch leader General Leonard Ngendakumana officially declared an opened insurgency against the government to pressure Nkurunziza.
  • The EAC has appointed Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni as the new mediator to the Burundi crisis. He met with the opposition and the ruling party on 14 and 15 July, and left with very little progress made.
  • The AU will send a mission to Burundi between 18-20 July. Given that the presidential elections are to take place on 21 July, this mission is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the political crisis or to add pressure on the ruling party to respect the Arusha Agreement.

What to watch

  • Now that the EAC seems amenable to the current date for the presidential elections, Nkurunziza will most likely win the elections on 21 July as the opposition continues to boycott the electoral process.
  • The CNDD-FDD has no intention of addressing the root causes of the current crisis. Given its position of strength vis-à-vis the opposition, it has no incentive to engage in serious dialogue until the end of the electoral process.
  • After the elections, the opposition will be in a very weak position to negotiate against the ruling party and may be included in the government in a symbolic capacity only.
  • The armed opposition is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. This insecurity will negatively impact ordinary Burundians and exacerbate the refugee situation in the region.

About View on Africa

Do you want to know what's happening in Africa? Where it's happening and what it means for the continent's many actors?

Join the new ISS View on Africa weekly briefing every Wednesday from 11h00 - 12h00 CAT at the ISS in Pretoria or online. ISS researchers from Dakar, Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Pretoria provide expert analysis of major events and trends in Africa. Introductory remarks are followed by discussions among participants.

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Situation Room
Block C
ISS Pretoria (map) and online: VoiceBoxer
Lusungu Kamudoni
Phone: +27 12 346 9500
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