Burundi – One Year OnApril 19, 2016 in Burundi
It has been a year since Burundi plunged into chaos, however peace efforts remain deadlocked as the country remains divided and violence continues.
While the Burundian government is insisting that a year of unrest is at an end, with the capital Bujumbura relatively calm after a string of attacks, which included a failed coup in May 2015, tensions across the country remain high, with the international community warning of the risk of a new explosion of violence. Hundreds of people have been killed and a quarter of a million have fled the country in the wake of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision last April to run for a third term in office, a vote that he won last July despite opposition boycotts. According to presidential press chief Willy Nyamitwe, “after the election fever and the violence that accompanied this process, the situation has returned to normal,” adding that “now the time is to work for development and the fight against poverty.” On the ground sources have reported that after weeks of battles between security forces and those opposed to the president’s third term, the capital is certainly calmer, adding that the once near-daily grenade attacks have also decreased. While the government crackdown over the past year involved the brutal repression of street protests, today, security forces stem opposition more discreetly after rights groups reported dead bodies being found on the city’s street on an almost daily basis. Last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein disclosed that reports have emerged that the use of torture has increased since the beginning of the year, adding that many people now “live in terror.” Diplomats have also disclosed that the crushing of the opposition has further undermined any respect for the law, with one official describing how “power is now in the hands of a small hard core,” mainly top generals close to President Nkurunziza since they fought together in the bush in the 1993 – 2006 civil war between the mostly Tutsi army and predominately Hutu rebel groups. The UN has reported that more than 400 people have been killed since the beginning of the crisis, adding that thousands more have been arrested and more than 250,000 have fled abroad. Rights groups have also indicated that torture and extrajudicial killings have become commonplace. Despite efforts to bring the opposition together under the main umbrella opposition group CNARED, whose leaders are in exile, it remains split and there seems to be minimal chance that there is a solution in the near future. The international community, while critical of what has happened in Burundi over the past year, has also been unable to find a real solution to the ongoing crisis, and the Burundian government seems to be exploiting these divisions. Despite repeated calls for “inclusive dialogue,” the government has remained defiant and has refused to sit down with the opposition in exile, which it accuses of being behind the violence. Without a concrete solution, the pressure across Burundi will continue to mount, with analysts already warning of a “potentially explosive situation” amidst the continued violence with fears that the conflict is increasingly based along ethnic lines.