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  • on 06.05.2015
  • at 11:37 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Burundi goes from peacebuilding success to a growing mess 0

In 2005, when President Pierre Nkurunziza rose to the presidency by indirect vote as dictated by the country’s then new constitution, Burundians and observers alike let out a sigh a relief. After decades of ethno-political violence and years of negotiations to ratify the Arusha Agreement (signed in neighboring Tanzania), Burundi had finally gone through a peaceful transition. Or so it seemed at the time.

To avoid the zero-sum politics that often characterize divided societies, the Arusha-inspired political framework established a power-sharing agreement that provided political and security guarantees for all those involved. Additionally, Burundi succeeded where others have failed in fully integrating various warring groups into a single republican army.

Right now, after nearly a week of protest resulting in at least 7 dead, dozens wounded (Editor’s Note: the total dead has now risen to 13) , and tens of thousands of refugees, we are hard-pressed to understand how Burundi went from being the hallmark of power-sharing success to an increasingly polarized country.

The escalation of tensions seems to have taken many by surprise. Yet, for over a year, scholars and analysts have warned of the growing tensions in Burundi, such as in here, here, and here. In fact, there were early signs: In the beginning of Nkurunziza’s presidency, he hinted at his contempt for dissent. Early in his tenure, he shut down civil society organizations and disciplined party members who disapproved of his leadership.

But the 2010 elections should have been another, yet crucial sign of things to come. The electoral campaign was marred with harassment, intimidation and arrests of opposition members. By the end of the local elections, most of the opposition opted to boycott the remainder of the polls. This decision turned out to be a severe miscalculation. Instead of delegitimizing the electoral process, it emboldened the ruling party, which gained a crushing majority in the legislature. Burundi becoming a de facto single-party state is one of the contributing factors to the current crisis; and the fractured and, at times, ego-driven opposition is partly to blame.

Continue reading on Africa Is A Country

by Dr. Yolande Bouka

Photo Credit: Flickr/Igor Rugwiza 

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