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Burundi: as the local elections draw nearer, militants calm down 1

The election campaign for the local elections on May 21 is in full swing in Burundi, and political militants, especially those from the party in power, are desperately trying to avoid provocations and violence, afraid that any slip could mean a loss in cotes.

“”A small act is enough to die, and when you die, that’s it. The party loses a member and votes simultaneously. Which is why we need to be prudent during this time of propaganda”,” says Eric, who was met along with other FNL (Forces for National Liberation) members in a Ngozi cabaret in the north of Burundi.

They meet here to wind down after their propaganda meeting.
 Just days after May 5, which signalled the beginning of the election campaign towards May 21, political militants have slowly started changing their attitudes.

Provocations and violent episodes from the last few months are over and odne with.
Two weeks before in Kirundo, young CNDD-FDD* party members had collided with FNL ones and eight of them had been wounded.
A week before that, fights had taken place in Ngozi and Kayanza.

Now, militants from different parties who cross on the street say hi, smile at each other and drink side by side after their respective meetings.
 They even forgive those who provoke their friends or resolve litigations on their own. 
Just before the first ballot of the general elections which will extend itself over a few months, their objective is to avoid creating serious incidents that could cost someone their life and make them lose many votes.

Voters appreciate this change. They fear, however, that it will last only as long as the local elections, considered less important than the presidential ones.

Adults control the young

“Come! let’s go and join the men”,” Marie-Concilie, a 60-year-old member of the FNL, tells a group of ten young that she is in charge of.  She had just noticed that a group of CNDD-FDD partisans had started to flood in to the cabaret where they were.

The young members of these parties had not stopped getting at each other’s throats in the past weeks.
These two political groups originate in two old rebel hutu movements. They have the most partisans and each of them hopes to win the elections. It is therefore better for the young to travel with adults who give them advice and put them back in line when danger arises.

The party which is currently in power feels a victory is already in sight.
“We have already won the elections,” is the congratulatory cry exchanged between partisans before the actual vote.

In order to get to the moment of victory, a correct behaviour is needed. As such, partisans are told to act as if they are carrying a baby in their bosom. In this case, the baby to be taken care of is Pierre Nkrunziza, the current head of state.

Claude from the Muremera neighbourhood and his friends hide their party tee-shirts after 6pm and abstain from political discussions. 
Some militants have even been compassionate with members of other parties. One such is a head of UPD (Union for Peace and Democracy) who, on May 6, before starting his activities, took the time to remember a FNL member who had died the previous day in a motor accident.

A few hiccoughs

A few hiccoughs have occurred. On Saturday May 8, a member of the party in power, wearing his movements colours, went to the Muremera stadium, where the UPD militants were meeting.
 He was beaten up, as it was thought that his coming was a provocation. A muslim based party, the UPD was born after the incarceration of the old chief of the party in power, having cut themselves off from it.

This is why militants do not look kindly on each other.
Insults are common occurrence. Especially when it comes to slogans against the party in place.
“Let’s say goodbye to the thieves, to the killers…”
 In these cases the police intervenes. Rare are those policemen who openly show their political allegiances.

* National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy. The CNDD-FDD is the government party.

By Eric Nshemerimana (Syfia Info/Grands Lacs)

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  1. Very interesting points you have observed, thanks for posting.

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