Sweeping changes to Burundi's constitution have consolidated power in the presidency, dismantled much of the Arusha Accords, and heightened the risk of greater violence and instability.
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Conflicts in Africa often reflect a breakdown of peace agreements that have been methodically dismantled by politicians intent on evading checks on power while oversight is weak. Vigilance is vital as early progress is not a guarantee of long-term success.
Despite the serious humanitarian and economic tolls generated by Burundi’s crisis, the reaction of its neighbors has been remarkably subdued.
Instability in Burundi continues to worsen, with the flow of refugees and displaced people showing no signs of abating. The number of registered refugees has risen 60 percent in the last year—to 423,056—escalating the political and economic costs for all of Burundi's neighbors.
As the political crisis in Burundi continues, its army, whose post-war reform to depoliticize and professionalize it was long seen as a model for success, is now being torn apart by numerous defections, purges, and competing factions conducting tit-for-tat assassinations. The institution’s integrity and its ability to remain at the service of the people rather than become the President’s personal militia has been permanently damaged. The fact that a career in the Army could soon no longer guarantee a good and steady salary could also contribute to further instability. The degradation of Burundi’s military is a clear outcome of the political crisis. Reversing this trend will require resolving the crisis.
Two years after Pierre Nkurunziza announced his intention to pursue a contested third term as President, the Burundi crisis continues to worsen. Despite claims by the government that the situation has normalized, facts on the ground suggest otherwise.
Over the past two years, it has become increasingly clear that undermining the Arusha Accords, once hailed as Burundi’s best chance for peace, is a key objective of the Nkurunziza government.
African countries contribute the most peacekeepers to missions on the continent. However, many troop-contributing countries are hybrid democratic/autocratic political systems—characterized as neopatrimonial—and some are accused of using peacekeeping missions as a means to generate rents for their regimes to retain control at home. Others send their troops only to find them partaking in the recipient country’s neo-patrimonial system—their troops exploiting the system to extract economic rents. In both cases, the purpose of peacekeeping has been undermined and the conflict perhaps prolonged.
Deployment of regional troops in Burundi may be an indispensable step to create an enabling environment for meaningful peace talks to move forward.
Africa Center Research Director Joseph Siegle testifies on the political and security crises in Burundi before U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.
The crisis in Burundi, ongoing since the April 25 announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in office, is entering into a dangerous phase. In a speech on November 3, Burundian Senate President Reverien Ndikuriyo incited ethnically-based violence: “You tell those who want to execute the mission: on this issue, you have... Continue Reading
At the core of Burundi’s political crisis are the Arusha Accords, widely attributed with having brought Burundi out of its 1993–2005 civil war.