Burundi Case Study

Jamar, A. (April 2017)

Policy points:
• This policy brief highlights the limitation of the institutional approach adopted to address ethnic exclusion and to end cycles of violence in Burundi.
• It traces how the institutional reforms established a broad and inclusive power-sharing system. It also draws attention to how the transitional agenda was driven by existing power disequilibrium, and national and international political dynamics, whose actors both supported and deviated from the agenda.
• These important institutional efforts enabled the establishment of a multi-party democracy and the depolarisation of political arena. However, the political system in Burundi continues to exclude some key actors from its institutions, particularly those opposed to the third mandate of the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, today.
• Overall, these reforms did not have significant impact to end the political use of violence and human rights violations.
• In the current political context marked by fear and violence, there is a need to move beyond the political and military elite that have dominated Burundian politics over the last decades, and to promote a broad common political community.

Abstract: The Burundi case study reviews how institutional reforms have approached the long history of violence and political exclusion. Since its independence in 1961, the exclusion of ethnic, social or political groups from the political space and its attached benefits has motivated the formation of rebel groups, and the use of violence to challenge, acquire or maintain political privileges. Signed from 2000 to 2009, the Arusha and subsequent peace agreements led to the establishment of a broad and inclusive power-sharing system with the aim of achieving an ethnic, regional and gender equilibrium. Despite resulting important transformation of the institutional framework (organising the government, the legislative body, political parties, the security forces, and wider public services), the issues of exclusion and violence remained important in the political landscape in Burundi. Given the current political context marked by fear and violence, it is argued that the peace negotiations need to learn from these institutional limitations and focus on the promotion of a common political community that goes beyond the political and military elite, who have dominated Burundian politics for the last decades.

Keywords: Peace Processes; Burundi

Citation:

Download briefing paper 2017/18.

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