BTI 2014 | Burundi Country Report

Key Indicators

Population (M) 9.8
Pop. growth 1 (% p.a.) 3.2
Life expectancy (years) 53.1
Urban population (%) 11.2
HDI 0.355
HDI rank of 187 178
UN Education Index 0.368
Gender inequality 2 0.476
GDP p.c. ($) 560.3
Gini Index 33.3
Poverty 3 (%) 93.5
Aid per Capita ($) 37.8
Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2013 | UNDP, Human Development Report 2013. Footnotes: (1) Average annual growth rate. (2) Gender Inequality Index (GII). (3) Percentage of population living on less than $2 a day.

Executive Summary

The 2005 general elections were conducted in a generally free and fair manner. The new legal framework introduced a closed party list with a complex system of ethnic and gender quotas effectively requiring all political parties in the electoral contest to present candidates from both main ethnic groups (Hutu and Tutsi). This was a major step away from the political tradition of mono-ethnic parties and, to some extent, was supposed to undermine ethnic voting (though most voters still voted according to the ethnic association of the party). The new consociational system furthermore required proportional representation of all major parties and the fulfillment of ethnic quotas in the government. All requirements were fulfilled after the landslide victory of Pierre Nkurunziza and his party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Conseil National Pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, CNDD-FDD).

However, despite the comprehensive consociational framework, the ruling party soon managed to bring large parts of the administration under its control, and its governing style became increasingly authoritarian, effectively sidelining all oppositional political forces and dissident voices within the CNDD-FDD.

The last remaining rebel group, the National Forces of Liberation (Forces nationales de liberation, FNL) finally signed a peace agreement with the government in 2009 and transformed into a political party. For the first time in almost two decades, no politically motivated and armed rebel groups were active in the territory. It also remarkably changed the nature of political competition between parties, with the FNL becoming the ruling party’s main challenger.

The 2010 elections confirmed the trend of an increasingly authoritarian ruling style. The run-up to the elections was marked by intimidation and violence on all sides. However, the CNDD-FDD benefited from its control of the administration and made use of its (partly armed) youth wing (Imbonerakure) to silence or eliminate opposition members. The communal elections in May 2010 brought a landslide victory for the CNDD-FDD in all but three provinces. Although the elections were considered free and fair by both national and international observers, the opposition, under the lead of the FNL, accused the CNDD-FDD of fraud and decided to boycott the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections. Only two parties participated in the parliamentary elections, helping the CNDD-FDD establish a government in line with the constitution, which provides for a coalitional government with at least one minor opposition party.

Shortly after the elections, the opposition parties formed the extraparliamentary alliance ADC-Ikibiri. The leaders of the main opposition parties went into exile and parts of the FNL started to rearm and renew alliances with Congolese rebels in the neighboring Congolese province of South Kivu. The political climate in Burundi became extremely hostile, with frequent cases of intimidation, harassment and killings of opposition members, civil society activists and independent media by the security organs. The last two years were also marked by an increase in armed attacks against government buildings and the army, as well as a large attack on a Gatumba bar whose owner was associated with the ruling party; 37 people were killed. Though perpetrators of such violence are often unknown, the government tries to blame most of it on the FNL. Three smaller self-declared rebel groups emerged over the last two years and disappeared soon after. Despite an increase in politically motivated armed violence, the government continues to frame the attacks as simple crime or terrorism. Political dialogue, as foreseen in the Arusha Peace Agreement, has effectively come to an end.

Socioeconomic progress has been much slower than had been hoped for back in 2005, largely due to the country’s large structural and historic economic problems and socio-cultural conditions. Progress is limited by high levels of poverty, overpopulation, a lack of arable land, ecological constraints (drought and occasional floods) and a lack of exploitable natural resources.

Burundi has successfully completed the review of its last three-year Extended Credit Facility (ECF), having largely attained the set macroeconomic goals. A new ECF arrangement was agreed upon in February 2012 (around $6 million) and the donor community granted Burundi around $2.5 billion in aid – twice as much as the government expected – at a donor conference in October 2012 after the presentation of the second generation of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). The PRSPs take up internationally expected key topics of political and economic reform, such as poverty reduction, good governance, the rule of law, gender justice, sustainable growth and stability oriented money, and fiscal and exchange politics. However, apart from rhetorical promises, a clear national development strategy with discernible priorities has not yet been formulated. This could be attributable to lackluster political leadership and a lack of defined goals, but it can also be explained by the country’s almost complete dependence on international donors and the extremely limited options for any realistic and independent development strategy.

History and Characteristics of Transformation

Historically, Burundi has been characterized by a deep sociopolitical cleavage between Hutu (85% of the population) and Tutsi (14% of the population), severely accentuated during colonialism. After independence in 1962, a small Tutsi elite within the Union for National Progress (UPRONA) political party seized full control of the state administration and military. The consolidation of power included the elimination of large parts of the new and educated Hutu elite. All postcolonial regimes focused primarily on maintaining their power rather than pursuing development-oriented policies with a view to overcome the existing socioeconomic cleavages.

In 1988, an internationally driven democratization process began, culminating in general elections in 1993. Melchior Ndadaye from the Hutu majority party Burundi Democratic Front (Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi, FRODEBU) was elected and started a widespread (although still cautious) restructuring of state institutions. Ostensibly out of fear of losing their hitherto unchallenged control, members of the army assassinated Ndadaye and other high politicians shortly after the elections. This sparked a full-fledged civil war (with an estimated total death toll of around 300,000) that pitted Hutu rebel groups (primarily the CNDD-FDD and the FNL) against an uncompromising all-Tutsi army. Through a mixture of political maneuvers and violence, the former Tutsi president Pierre Buyoya (1987 – 1993, UPRONA) managed to regain power in a coup d’état in 1996.

However, the war by no means pitted united and coherent ethnic blocks against each other. Within the Tutsi community cleavages ran along sub-ethnic, regional as well as class lines. During peace negotiations, most Tutsi favored a settlement of the conflict under the condition that their security was guaranteed. The Hutu were divided broadly into moderates and radicals. The former were hoping for a peaceful settlement of the conflict with some preferring a negotiated settlement and some opting for a co-option by a Tutsi-led government, as after 1988.

The radical Hutu parties (but primarily the CNDD-FDD, which emerged as the radical alternative to FRODEBU and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL), were founded in the 1980s in a Tanzanian refugee camp. During the war, the different rebel groups were partly fighting each other, and deep cleavages had emerged among them already in the early years.

A peace process, largely externally imposed (mostly by South Africa), culminated in the Arusha Peace Agreement between UPRONA and FRODEBU in August 2000, introducing a transitional government based on consociational power-sharing between Hutu and Tutsi with ethnic quotas for all political institutions (a shared government, an ethnic balance in the newly created Senate, as well as 40% Tutsi and 60% Hutu in the rest of the political institutions). A plethora of smaller parties joined the peace talks but received only a small share of power. The transition was marked by the continuation of armed conflict, as neither the CNDD-FDD nor the FNL were included in the peace deal. However, parallel talks between the army and the CNDD-FDD had already started early on during the peace negotiations. The CNDD-FDD accepted the peace process and became fully integrated in transitional institutions in 2004, ceasing its fight against the army but continuing the fight against the FNL side by side with the army. Only the FNL continued with armed struggle, mostly in the western provinces of Bujumbura Rurale, Bubanza and Cibitoke. In its agreement with the government, the CNDD-FDD assumed control of 40% of the army, 35% of police posts, and a number of ministries and seats in parliament. With its integration into the security forces, the CNDD-FDD became the most powerful political player in the country, as neither FRODEBU nor UPRONA had military arms. The ethnic quota did not pose problems for the CNDD-FDD either, as it had negotiated directly with high-ranking Tutsi elites in the army and was able to convince a sufficient number of Tutsi to join its ranks early on.

A referendum approved a new constitution (with firm quotas for political and military representation of Hutu and Tutsi) in February 2005.

Military integration, also begun in 2005, created an ethnically balanced army, removing what for decades had been the most important obstacle to peace. The transformation of the army is considered highly successful. In 2009, the first Hutu ex-rebel general was appointed as army chief. International recognition resulted from the deployment of Burundian units within the African Union peace forces in Somalia (AMISOM) and closer cooperation with the armies and security forces of neighboring Rwanda and Tanzania in fighting rebels in the region.

The transition ended with free and fair elections in 2005, with 90% voter turnout, bringing an outright victory to the CNDD-FDD under party leader Pierre Nkurunziza. The CNDD-FDD was largely considered the representative of the hitherto neglected rural Hutu population. The party furthermore gained popularity for being willing to integrate into state institutions and for bringing the war to an end, which secured it the support of Hutu areas in the northwestern and eastern provinces, as well as some Tutsi support. Already, during the last year of transition, politicians from FRODEBU and UPRONA started to change camps to the CNDD-FDD in view of the latter’s expected electoral victory. The CNDD-FDD thus managed to gain broad political support by promising opportunities to both rural Hutu as well as Tutsi elites. The CNDD-FDD was the only ethnically mixed party that offered the Tutsi relevant input in the party’s agenda and had a well-organized campaign. As opposed to FRODEBU, it also had a broad range of former fighter activists and a well-functioning parallel administration in many parts of the country, dating from its time as the main rebel movement. In fact, the adherence to the Arusha Agreement, despite the fact that the CNDD-FDD had not been party to the official negotiations, can be seen as an early strategy to consolidate power by adopting at least the rhetoric of democratic values and introducing an ethnically mixed and charismatic leadership.

The new consociational government was formed according to the constitution, comprising all parties that had received more than 5% of the vote, and implementing the mandated ethnic quotas. This early political transformation was, however, marked by power struggles within the ruling party. Internal splits within the parliamentary group of the CNDD-FDD, and subsequent decision-making paralysis, resulted from the ousting of President Nkurunziza’s main rival, CNDD-FDD chairman Hussein Radjabu. Due to heavy pressure by the president, the Supreme Court approved the replacement of all members of parliament from the Radjabu faction by loyal members of CNDD-FDD. FRODEBU was split on how much to support the government, which was becoming more authoritarian – a split that was boosted by the CNDD-FDD and resulted in the creation of FRODEBU-Nyakuri, a party which would align with the CNDD-FDD in the 2010 elections. Ever since, the word “Nyakurisation” has become an expression for the CNDD-FDD’s strategy of co-opting opponents’ positions and taking advantage of their internal power struggles.

A peace agreement with the last remaining rebel group, the FNL, was signed in 2008. Increasing pressure from international and regional governments, the loss of a safe haven in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the decrease in support by the Burundian population, and the wish of many FNL fighters to benefit from the country’s demobilization programs all finally made FNL leader Agathon Rwasa agree to a complete demobilization of his fighters and the transformation of the FNL into a political party in 2009.

Rwasa expected the FNL to become a major new force in the 2010 elections. However, the CNDD-FDD emerged as the clear winner of the communal elections with the vast support of the rural population, resulting in a 50% margin over its main opponent. The elections were marred by accusations of intimidation by the CNDD-FDD. However, both international and local observers confirmed that the elections were generally conducted correctly.

Nevertheless, the opposition parties, under the lead of the FNL, decided to boycott the subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections and later regrouped in the extra-parliamentary alliance ADC-Ikibiri. The boycott’s appeal to smaller parties can partly be attributed to their disappointment with the new political system, which brought them only very little privilege, as opposed to UPRONA and FRODEBU in the early phases, after the peace agreement, and CNDD-FDD later on.

Only UPRONA and FRODEBU-Nyakuri took part in the parliamentary contest, helping the CNDD-FDD establish a government in line with the consociational constitution, which requires the inclusion of more than one party. Furthermore, the constitutional quota system, which requires closed lists, has substantially increased the power of the CNDD-FDD under the chairmanship of the president.

Since the contested elections, the political climate has become extremely hostile. Any attempts at a renewal of dialogue between the government and the ADC-Ikibiri have failed so far. Harassment and persecution of opposition members, particularly of the FNL, but also of human rights defenders and independent media, are soaring. The governing style of the ruling party has become increasingly authoritarian and oppressive. The opposition, however, does not present any viable alternative. It is internally splintered and, for the most part, more interested in personal gains than democratic contest.

Parts of the FNL have gone into hiding in the DRC and started to renew wartime alliances with Congolese rebels. Small attacks by the FNL and some smaller self-declared rebel groups increased in the last two years. The most devastating attack caused the deaths of around 37 people in a Gatumba bar whose owner was said to be close to the president. Generally, the government denies the existence of political violence and frames attacks as simple crime or terrorism.

Amid political fighting, the country’s economic and social transformation suffered. The government has not yet seriously tackled the country’s structural problems. Apart from improvements in the provision of basic services (health, primary education), major political and socioeconomic reforms have not yet been seriously implemented. Economic transformation has begun very slowly and is riddled with structural constraints. The state continues to be the largest employer, and public procurement remains the government’s main instrument of economic policy. Both employment and procurement policies are a magnet for politicization and corruption that reforms have so far been unable to countervail.

In summary, from independence until the turn of the century, Burundi suffered tremendously under the difficult legacy of its history and structural deficiencies. It was only very recently, after years of violent civil strife, that a fundamental political transformation was achieved with the early awakenings of a socioeconomic transformation. However, hopes for more inclusive politics and socioeconomic development continue to be foiled by an increasingly authoritarian government.

The BTI combines text analysis and numerical assessments. The score for each question is provided below its respective title. The scale ranges from 1 (worst) to 10 (best).

Transformation Status

I. Political Transformation


1 | Stateness

Monopoly on the use of force

In principle, the state has had, since the establishment of an integrated army and police force in 2005, the monopoly on the use of force throughout the country. Formerly antagonistic elements of the former government army and rebel groups that fought in the civil war have been balanced by an elaborate quota system in all state security organs. Indeed, surmounting ethnicity in the hitherto mono-ethnic army is seen as the most important aspect of the Arusha agreement and subsequent Pretoria protocol, which are predicated on the idea that ethnic balance in the army will prevent future coups and state-sponsored ethnic violence.

Until late 2008, the FNL rebel group severely challenged the monopoly on the use of force in the western provinces of Bujumbura Rurale, Bubanza and Cibitoke. This ended with their integration into the power-sharing system in early 2009. Since then, no single rebel group has posed a serious security threat in Burundi.

However, after the contested elections of 2010, FNL leader Agathon Rwasa and other FNL members went into hiding in neighboring DRC, where they renewed historical alliances with Congolese militias. Ever since, numerous smaller incidents of armed violence against state institutions or civilians have taken place, mainly in the former FNL strongholds in the west, but not always involving the FNL. In 2012 alone, three smaller self-proclaimed rebel groups emerged and disappeared after small-scale attacks on government buildings or clashes with the army or police.

The most dramatic incident happened in September 2011, when 39 people died in an attack on a bar in Gatumba. The bar owner and clients were said to be close to the CNDD-FDD, and the blame was laid on the FNL, which never claimed responsibility for the attack. Despite these incidents, it is unlikely that the state’s monopoly on the use of force will be seriously challenged to the point of renewed civil war.

The state does not always use its monopoly to provide security for the population but rather in order to sustain and enlarge its own power over dissident voices and opposition members.

The population’s trust in the now-integrated army has risen significantly since the end of the civil war. However, police and security services are more often than not corrupt and unpredictable, and the CNDD-FDD uses them to advance its own agenda.

State identity

The legitimacy of the nation-state is not questioned in principle. There are no calls for secession or claims of autonomy for any group. Unlike most other sub-Saharan African states, Burundi enjoys a long (pre-colonial) history of national unity, with a common national language (Kirundi) and few cultural differences within the population. The bloody struggles between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority have always been about controlling the state and its resources, not about belonging to the nation.

The decade-long political and socioeconomic discrimination against the Hutu has largely ceased due to an elaborate system of institutionalized ethnic power-sharing. The formula provides for enough security guarantees for the Tutsi to make it acceptable to all. However, competing discourses about the past persist among elites and the population. These challenge the idea of national unity to some extent, at least regarding the common history.

The small minority of Twa (around 1% – 2%) is marginalized on all levels, despite special status within the power-sharing formula.

No interference of religious dogmas

Burundi is a secular state and religious dogmas do not openly influence legal and political institutions. However, Christianity in various forms is very dominant and other religions (such as Islam) are effectively marginalized. From colonial times to the present, the Catholic Church has exerted a powerful influence on all levels of Burundian society. The president openly expresses born-again Christian beliefs.

In principle, the various churches do not exert any direct influence on politics. However, indirectly, political decisions are often based on partly fundamentalist Christian values. The rejection of contraception by the Catholic and born-again Christian churches effectively prevents the government from promoting family planning, which would be much needed given the link between overpopulation and poverty.

The penalization of homosexuality and abortion in 2008 has been very much pushed by various churches, and discussions of the topics have often been built on religious values. It is difficult to say whether the church acted as an interest group here, or whether politicians based their decisions on their own Christian belief, independently of the church as an institution.

Basic administration

Due to the country’s small size, high population density and long history of central control, public administration adequately covers the entire territory. Administrative structures are generally small and poorly funded, but have larger responsibilities than in many other African states. In 2005, the government committed to a comprehensive, externally supported decentralization process, which has yielded some results, such as the establishment of locally elected hill councils and the transfer of competencies to lower-level administration. It is hoped that decentralization will change the passive mentality toward politics that prevails in rural Burundi. However, long bureaucratic procedures, politicization and a lack of competence have all slowed down the process.

The smallest administrational entity is the “colline” (hill). Since 2005, elected hill councils have been responsible for small-scale development activities as well as conflict mediation in their neighborhoods. Hill council members are supposed to be independent of political parties. However, even at this smallest level of the polity, the CNDD-FDD has considerable influence. That influence at the lower level is exercised mostly by the ruling partly, rather than the established administration. In provinces where the FNL is still influential, such as Bujumbura Rurale or Bubanza, local power is more contested. The hills are grouped in 117 communes forming 17 provinces.

Access to health services is improving but not yet sufficient. Burundi averages one doctor per 19,231 inhabitants (the WHO recommends one doctor per 10,000). Around 80% of the urban but only 50% of the rural population has access to safe drinking water. Many primary rural schools have been rebuilt or expanded. The quality of education, however, is still very low.

The president gives much attention to the improvement of rural areas, visiting villages and rural areas frequently. These activities have clearly boosted the president’s reputation among the rural population and significantly contributed to his (and the CNDD-FDD’s) electoral victory in 2010.

2 | Political Participation

Free and fair elections

The first post-civil-war elections, in 2005, were generally considered free and fair. However, with the landslide victory of the CNDD-FDD, the presidential party was able to solidify its political position and gain control over most state institutions. The 2010 elections were therefore regarded by all political players as decisive for the country’s future power configuration. Therefore, the sequence and modalities of the elections and the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission were the source of considerable controversy, but a compromise was ultimately reached. The climate of the election campaign was very hostile. Although marred by only a few incidents, opposition parties and sympathizers were to some extent subjected to harassment and intimidation by state organs. The ruling party made full use of state facilities and resources, and received much more coverage by the state-controlled media. All this contributed to an uneven playing field.

But there is no evidence that without harassment and irregularities the CNDD-FDD’s margin of victory in the communal elections (+7%) would have been substantially different.

In analyses of the returns, the political orientation of the main Hutu opposition parties FNL (Forces for National Liberation) and Union for Peace and Development (UPD) is rarely taken into consideration. The leaders of both parties represent the radical wings of the Hutu rebels. Fearful of new ethnic strife, moderate voters including many Tutsi may have turned to the CNDD-FDD, which, in spite of its deficiencies, at least has made a substantive contribution to reconciliation between Tutsi and Hutu.

In the first, communal electoral round, the CNDD-FDD was able to consolidate its majority position in the north, center and east, whereas in the capital and the south it improved its results but remained definitively in a minority position. Its main competitor, the FNL, which was organized as a party only one year before, won 58% of the votes in its stronghold Bujumbura Rural, where it had been active as a rebel movement. Nationwide, however, it succeeded neither in penetrating the core CNDD-FDD constituency nor in attracting voters from the Tutsi-oriented parties, and was able to draw former FRODEBU voters only to a limited extent.

The 2010 losers continue to accuse the government of massive fraud, intimidation and harassment. There were in fact some irregularities, but no convincing evidence of fraud was produced, and local and international election observers alike gave a positive assessment of the overall conduct of the vote. The FNL nevertheless succeeded in rallying most of the other opposition parties to boycott the subsequent parliamentary and presidential elections (with exception of UPRONA, in the case of the parliamentary elections). The boycott was largely tactical rather than an expression of adherence to democratic values. In fact, it would be misleading to think of the opposition as a valuable democratic alternative to the authoritarian government. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the East African Community and donor country representatives tried in vain to dissuade the opposition from the boycott. The parliamentary and presidential elections were held in conformity with existing regulations and were judged by international and local observers to be generally correct. However, the boycott prevented the population from having the chance to engage in an open electoral contest on the national level.

Shortly after the elections important opposition leaders, including Agathon Rwasa (FNL), Alexis Sinduhije (MSD) and Léonard Nyangoma (CNDD) went into exile. Ever since, the political climate in Burundi has become extremely hostile and political dialogue has stalled.

Two years after the election, the opposition alliance ADC-Ikibiri still exists. But it lost much of its initial appeal after internal disagreement led to splits within the alliance, and no credible alternative political program has been designed so far. The focus to date has been less on criticizing past elections than on the return of the exiled opposition leaders and on human rights abuses committed against the opposition, journalists and human rights defenders since 2010. It will be crucial to begin a new political dialogue in order to allow for free and fair elections in 2015. However, the fact that neither the government nor the opposition adhere to democratic values and primarily try to secure or regain positions of power limits the potential of any mediation. Tentative meetings have been held among the opposition, parliamentarians of the CNDD-FDD, former heads of state, and religious leaders. The FNL as well as the leadership of the ruling party, however, continue to boycott the dialogue. The short detention of Sinduhije in Tanzania in January 2012 (on Burundian demand) raises fears among opposition politicians that the CNDD-FDD will not take an easy stance on the opposition in the future. New laws that require leaders of political parties to reside in Burundi (effectively banning the major opposition parties) further exacerbate the hostile political climate. Other restrictions affect the establishment of new parties and effectively forbid coalition building. A crucial decision facing the government is whether to change the constitution to allow the president a third term in office. Currently, the constitution restricts the president to two terms. However, there is a debate whether this applies also to Nkurunziza, as he was first elected before the new constitution had been enacted.

Effective power to govern

Elected rulers do in principle have the authority and the instruments to govern the country effectively, but they have to be careful not to antagonize some special interest groups too strongly (given the complex socioeconomic fabric of Burundian society). The veto power of the military is limited – due to its 50–50 split between Hutus and Tutsis – with respect to changing the essential provisions of the peace agreement or constitution.

At this point, no effective veto powers are evident. The constitutional veto power for the Tutsi minority, which has been decisive for the ending of the civil war, no longer constitutes a threat to the CNDD-FDD’s politics. The minor coalition partner UPRONA bends to all major decisions taken by the ruling party in order to stay in power. However, the ethnically balanced army acts as a guarantor for the constitution and will effectively impede the government from changing the constitution or the quota system, despite the political majority of the CNDD-FDD.

Because of the country’s high financial dependency on foreign aid and the good will of its principal international partners and donors (above all the World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank, European Union), the government is obliged to consult with them about all financially relevant policy matters.

Association / assembly rights

The high number of formally registered political parties and civic groups can be taken as indication of relatively liberal practice with respect to the rights of political association and assembly. However, this is very considerably (but intentionally) constrained by the provisions of the constitution that stipulate an obligatory mixed ethnic membership. This was agreed upon as a device to overcome the old ethnic cleavages, but it nevertheless infringes on the absolute liberty of political association.

During the last two years, the government has taken a tougher stance toward dissident voices, be they political opposition, media or civil society organizations.

A new law restricts the establishment of new political parties and effectively outlaws alliances.

Furthermore, a new law on demonstration and public assemblies constitutes a serious setback in terms of association and assembly rights. The laws provide for government envoys in public assemblies and permits the latter’s dissolution to preserve public order. This adds to the climate of fear that already exists among opposition parties and civil society organizations.

Freedom of expression

The situation with regard to media plurality and the freedom of expression for individuals and associations in general has further deteriorated. The CNDD-FDD regards independent media and civil society organizations as hostile to their politics and has tried to control and restrain critical voices since the party’s accession to power. The freedom of expression is severely constrained by intimidation and harassment as well as legal restrictions.

Numerous cases of intimidation, arrest and extrajudicial killings of journalists, members of the political opposition, and civil society activists are well documented by national and international NGOs. Probably the most severe international outcry was caused by the arrest and imprisonment for 11 months of the independent journalist Jean-Claude Kavumbagu in 2011 following his claim that the security organs would not be able to prevent terrorist attacks.

A serious setback in terms of freedom of expression is a new law on the media that imposes severe restrictions on critical news coverage as well as all other forms of public expression.

The deterioration of the situation of media and civil society organizations is especially worrisome, as these entities have so far been an important counterbalance to the government and have played a conflict-mitigating role since the end of the civil war.

3 | Rule of Law

Separation of powers

The separation of powers between the various state organs and a system of checks and balances exist both legally and in practice. However, both chambers of parliament have had difficulties opposing decisions made within the inner power circle. Due to the overwhelming CNDD-FDD majority in the new National Assembly and Senate, the potential to counter the executive branch of government has been further weakened.

Following the opposition boycott of the 2010 legislative and presidential elections, all powers are highly concentrated in the hands of the ruling CNDD-FDD party. This development is legally in line with the constitution (all formal criteria such as ethnic quotas and the presence of a minor coalition partner are fulfilled).

Over the last two years, it has become clear that the extra-parliamentary forces of the opposition are unable to become an effective countervailing power based on the mobilization of civil society. Over the protest of the opposition, the government has passed several laws further restricting democratic expression outside the parliament. The ruling party uses all available means to further narrow democratic space in Burundi, including the separation of powers.

An Ombudsman’s Office was established in November 2010, and a National Independent Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) in January 2011. However, the independence of these institutions vis-à-vis the inner power circle is fragile, both institutions being headed by personnel close to the government. Furthermore, the CNIDH lacks the necessary material and human resources to effectively implement its program.

Given the difficulties of the independent media, and with a general lack of transparency within the political process, very little is in fact known about the workings of the government’s inner power structures.

Independent judiciary

The judiciary is set up as a distinct and separate institution, theoretically able to operate independently from all other organs of the state. However, judicial appointments are made by the government (by the minister of justice, in consultation with the president), and a certain amount of political pressure has always been exerted on the judicial system. Today, many layers of the judiciary are riddled with CNDD-FDD cadres.

In general, Burundi’s judiciary bends to the will of the executive, but occasionally makes independent decisions, such as acquitting political opponents.

In a dubious mid-2006 treason case, the Supreme Court made a courageous independent decision against strong government pressure. But in other highly political cases (such as the expulsion of dissident parliamentarians from the legislature as a result of their disagreement with the official party line), the Supreme Court clearly succumbed to governmental pressure.

Members of the lower levels of the judiciary are poorly trained and equipped, and the entire judicial system is prone to the temptations of corruption. Furthermore, many lower-level judges are exposed to pressure by the government via the police, secret service and (armed) youth wing of the CNDD-FDD (Imbonerakure).

Prosecution of office abuse

In general, a climate of absolute impunity for public officeholders prevails. The fight against corruption has been made a top priority on a rhetorical basis, but this remains unconvincing. Cases of apparent high-level corruption and dubious deals have become known, but have had no visible consequences for the persons implicated. Some vigilant NGOs investigate such cases and make them public, but generally without effecting any improvement in the situation. Transparency in governmental decisions and de facto accountability are practically nonexistent. Burundi has been regarded one of the most corrupt countries for years. However, in the latest East Africa Bribery Index, the country’s performance was rated much better than before. The police and judiciary remain the institutions most prone to petty corruption.

Civil rights

There is no systematic infringement of civil rights associated with people’s status as members of societal groups (e.g., gender, religion or ethnicity). However, repression against members of the political opposition by police, the secret service and the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD (Imbonerakure) is on the rise since the contested elections of 2010. Intimidation of critical voices, unlawful imprisonment without trial, “disappearances” and politically motivated extrajudicial executions are frequently reported by NGOs and the media. The distribution in May 2012 of a report by Human Rights Watch that documents patterns of political killings since 2010 was seriously hampered by the government.

A special commission in charge of investigating allegations of extrajudicial killings by the national police and secret service was established in 2012; it arrested a few individuals. However, the commission denied the existence of extrajudicial killings orchestrated by the state. This declaration earned widespread criticism by civil society activists, most of all because the major pending cases of alleged extrajudicial killings were not addressed.

Violence against women and girls is rampant and perpetrators rarely face persecution. The issue of inheritance is not yet legally regulated, so many Burundians still follow customary law that prevents women from inheriting. Even if women do inherit land, they often sell it immediately in order to protect themselves from harassment by male family members.

4 | Stability of Democratic Institutions

Performance of democratic institutions

In a formal sense, all conventionally required democratic institutions exist in Burundi, and function in accordance with the constitution and other laws. This is the case for both chambers of parliament, the judiciary, governmental structures at various levels and the professional public administration.

The government’s formal legitimacy is based on the results of elections in May – July 2010, but this legitimacy is significantly impaired by the election boycott carried out by most opposition parties, as well as the rather authoritarian mode of governance of the ruling party and its inner power circle. There is a glaring discrepancy between the formally correct composition of the democratic institutions and the almost complete factual absence of a valid and representative opposition. However, the boycott of elections can be considered a (failed) tactic of the opposition to provoke a state crisis in order to advance its own interests, rather than a reflection of democratic values. Therefore, it would be misleading to question the legitimacy of the government solely on the grounds of an absence of a formal political opposition.

Since the various institutional levels are all controlled by the same dominant party, there is much less friction than would otherwise be the case if several competing political forces were present.

Although the present situation is obviously deficient in comparison with conventional democratic standards, this cannot be exclusively blamed on the dominant party; indeed, the radical Hutu opposition parties and their exaggerated tactical reaction bear equal responsibility for the current situation.

Commitment to democratic institutions

In a formal sense, practically all relevant political and societal actors operate within the framework of the 2005 constitution, and thus appear to have accepted the new democratic dispensation. Critique of ethnic quotas has risen in recent years as it has become apparent that ethnic affiliation often outweighs merit, with negative consequences for institutional performance.

However, safeguards for the Tutsi minority have so far been accepted by the large majority of the population as a necessary evil to secure the fragile peace.

Even the CNDD-FDD, although not part of the original negotiations, has accepted the Arusha Peace Agreement and subsequent constitution as the basis of the Burundian state. In fact, adhering to the Arusha agreement was the best strategy for the CNDD-FDD to consolidate its power and legitimacy, using democratic elections and power-sharing as a means to secure its position over time. The leadership of the ruling party is deeply influenced by its experience as a guerrilla organization, leaning toward authoritative and uncompromising behavior, and it tends to be skeptical toward professional politicians. Although little is known about the inner power circle around the president, there seems to be a split between individuals loyal to the CNDD-FDD (including those in the military) who fought together in the war and those who joined the party later, including most Tutsi members.

The FNL rejected the peace deal until late 2008 and only reluctantly (and because they had little chances to survive otherwise) became a political party, in 2009. To this day, the FNL questions fundamental principles of the new democratic order, such as the overrepresentation of Tutsi in political institutions and security organs. Upon its integration into political institutions, the FNL retained the option of returning to violent activity if the results of the election 2010 did not meet its expectations, turning over only a small fraction of its arms cache. In fact, FNL leader Agathon Rwasa went back into exile after the election and renewed alliances with local rebels in the bordering South Kivu province of the DRC. Small clashes have been reported since, but no new outright rebellion seems to be probable in the short term.

5 | Political and Social Integration

Party system

Due to the opposition boycott, the 2010 elections reinforced the CNDD-FDD’s dominant position in all state institutions. Two years after the elections, it has become clear that the party uses its majority to exercise an increasingly authoritarian political style and channel resources to its own clientele. Its junior partner, the former state party UPRONA, has a solid voter base among the Tutsi and a disproportionately strong influence within business, society and army circles, due to its own clientelistic networks. UPRONA members of government generally bend to CNDD-FDD decisions in order to stay in power, thereby paltry disgruntling the party’s own base.

Although political parties are required to comply with ethnic quotas, they are still largely seen as Hutu or Tutsi parties and ethnic voting is common. However, numerous moderate Tutsis have joined the CNDD-FDD, crediting the party for reconciling Hutu and Tutsi, and fearing a strengthening of the extremist FNL.

A new law on political parties is explicitly designed to put an end to the proliferation of small parties distorting the democratic contest. The law restricts the establishment and survival of political parties, requiring much greater numbers of members to qualify to participate in elections and outlawing parties whose leaders are not residents in Burundi. It furthermore bans coalitions beyond election periods, effectively outlawing the ADC alliance.

Interest groups

The scope of well-articulated interest groups and professional associations is relatively limited. Practically all interest groups are subject to the historical experience of ethnic mistrust that has permeated Burundian society, although this tendency has begun to change. Interest groups tend to be fragmented and locally based, with a narrow focus. Ethnic mistrust is increasingly overshadowed by mistrust along party membership lines, with an increasing polarization between individuals and organizations loyal to the CNDD-FDD and those associating with the opposition.

Approval of democracy

The first Afrobarometer survey was conducted between November and December 2012 with 1200 adults. Until then, no quantitative survey data on attitudes toward democracy was available, which makes it difficult to judge how attitudes toward democracy have changed over time. Taking the first Afrobarometer survey together with available qualitative assessments, as well as the rate of voter participation in elections, it can be said that the majority of Burundians approve of democracy as the preferred political system.

Despite the opposition parties’ boycott, and thus the absence of any genuine choice, turnout was surprisingly high in the 2010 elections (77% in presidential and 67% in parliamentary elections). Furthermore, Burundians exhibit a high degree of knowledge about the elections and familiarity with the names of candidates. The majority of the population categorically rejects a one-party state and approves of a free press. The attitude toward the performance of democratic institutions is much more positive in rural areas than in urban centers, where mistrust in democratic institutions is high. There is thus a pronounced gap between the general approval of democratic norms and low trust in the existing democratic institutions. Trust in the army is remarkably high in rural as well as urban areas, in contrast to the degree of trust in politicians, the police and the judiciary. This can be seen as a major success of postwar institutional reform, as the army used to be one of the major obstacles to peace in Burundi before and during the war and has today managed to gain the image of a professional, disciplined and nonpartisan force.

Social capital

After years of inter-communal violence, the level of trust among citizens has strongly increased since the end of the civil war. Small NGOs, churches and traditional authorities (Bashingantahe) work on the reestablishment of mutual support and self-help. General ethnic mistrust has considerably decreased due to consociational arrangements such as an ethnically balanced army and police (the army historically being the main source of fear for the Hutu population) and the awareness that an ethnically mixed government is possible. However, competing versions of the past still exist between Hutu and Tutsi, and comprehensive reconciliation has not yet taken place. Twa continue to be excluded on all levels of society.

Ethnic mistrust is today often overshadowed by mistrust along political membership lines, with a growing cleavage between individuals loyal to the CNDD-FDD and the rest. A fear – real or exaggerated – persists that the ruling party and its secret service infiltrate all levels of the society.

Given the dire economic situation of the rural population, coupled with high population density, self-help is often not a choice but a necessity. The primary focus of the rural population remains on local issues, therefore trust as social capital hardly reaches beyond local boundaries. The reestablishment of mutual support and cooperation should not belie the fact that the rural population continues to be prone to authoritarianism and elite manipulation.

II. Economic Transformation


6 | Level of Socioeconomic Development

Socioeconomic barriers

Burundi remains one of the least developed countries according to the 2011 Human Development Index, occupying rank 185 (out of 187) and slipping from the second-lowest to lowest rank in the Global Hunger Index. The poverty situation remains one of the most extreme in the world, with 93% living with under $2 a day (2006 data). In the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Burundi is ranked 99 out of 104 countries. Poverty is relatively evenly distributed among rural Hutu, Tutsi and Twa, and it disproportionately affects women. Continuously high – albeit fluctuating – inflation rates over the last years make matters worse, and tax relief on basic goods in 2012 has not had a major positive impact. When asked about day-to-day problems in Burundi, people mostly focus on poverty as the fundamental impediment to their own development. The victory of the CNDD-FDD in the elections of 2005 caused widespread hope among the rural Hutu population that its situation would now change. In recent years, however, they have begun to realize that the government is failing to tackle fundamental issues facing the rural population despite systematic efforts to win rural support through popular measures such as free maternal health and primary education. It is questionable, however, whether the population would expect the opposition to do a better job. Ultimately, the government is limited in its capacity to steer policy, as the IMF and World Bank are largely determining where their finances go.

Inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient (2006 data) is lower than in other African countries. This is largely due to an almost nonexistent upper class and a very small middle class. Burundi scores higher on the Gender Equality Index (within the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutions Assessment Index, CPIA) than the world average, due to its extensive gender quotas in all political institutions. However, looking at the Gender Inequality Index (GII), which measures discrimination in health, education and the labor market, Burundi’s score (0.47) is average. This reveals that in areas not subject to quotas, gender inequality is still pervasive. Furthermore, none of these indicators take into consideration deep-rooted cultural inequalities resulting from a general devaluation of women in the society, including widespread violence against women and girls and discrimination in customary law (including inheritance and ownership regulation).


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Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2013 | International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Economic Outlook 2013 | Stockholm International Pease Research Institute (SIPRI), Military Expenditure Database 2013

7 | Organization of the Market and Competition

Market-based competition

Despite constant pressure from the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union and other donors for additional economic reforms and general liberalization, progress on this front has been halfhearted and haphazard.

Several structural factors impede the establishment of a market-based competitive economy. The bulk of the economy is based on the (largely informal and subsistence-focused) agricultural sector, which accounts for around 44% of GDP but occupies close to 90% of the population. More market-based competition in this sphere is hardly useful, as it would not benefit the rural poor. Competition is further hampered by the fragile political arrangement between former adversaries, in which economic opportunities have to be carefully balanced. Politics in Burundi are characterized by high levels of economic opportunism, including corruption on all levels of the administration and direct intervention in the economic sphere by politicians in order to influence economic activities in accordance with political/personal opportunities.

Nevertheless, Burundi has significantly improved its business conditions according to the Doing Business Ranking of 2013. However, due to the difficult access to financing and high corruption, Burundi remains one of the least competitive economies in the world (Global Competitiveness Report 2012 – 2013).

Anti-monopoly policy

Due to the small size and the particular structural features of the national economy, there is hardly any practical scope for the effective control of existing monopolies or oligopolies. The recent accession (in 2007) to the wider East African Community (EAC) market may slowly have some practical bearing on this situation by confronting Burundian economic actors with competition from the more advanced EAC partner countries.

In the Global Competitiveness Index 2012 – 2013 of the World Economic Forum, Burundi ranks 134 (of 144) in the category “effectiveness of anti-monopoly policy.” The antimonopoly policy is hardly enforced and not much attention is paid to this topic.

Liberalization of foreign trade

Burundi has committed to trade liberalization policies as laid out by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Free Trade Agreement, which Burundi joined in 2004m, and the EAC Customs Union, which it joined in 2009.

Despite some progress in harmonizing trade within these regional institutions, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) remain high in Burundi. Customs and administrative procedures are lengthy and partly discriminatory. Especially the complex and at times confusing clearance formalities and control operations at the Bujumbura port are considered an obstacle to free trade.

On the whole, the economy is only very weakly integrated into the world market, despite its heavy dependence on the import of many essential goods.

Banking system

The banking system is moderately well organized and has a presence in most provincial centers, but is to a large extent concentrated in the capital city Bujumbura. This means that many of the rural poor do not have access to finances. However, in the last years, micro-financing has made some progress.

The private banking sector is largely in the hands of the old Tutsi economic elite. Although the government has only minor shares in commercial banks, it manages to exert considerable influence on the appointment of managers and board members and exercise a certain level of control over the financial sector, resulting in conflicts with private shareholders. Empirical data on the efficiency of the overall weak banking sector is not available.

The central bank is legally independent of the government, but is strongly influenced by informal oversight from the IMF, which provides professional advice.

II. Market Economy

8 | Currency and Price Stability

Anti-inflation / forex policy

Inflation control and an appropriate exchange rate are recognized as important goals and tools of governmental economic policy. The central bank is formally an independent institution. Illicit political pressure from the government is limited by its dependency on international financial institutions. All foreign-exchange dealings have been practically liberalized, with rates determined by currency auctions under the guidance of the central bank. The official exchange rate has been held relatively stable for a number of years (oriented to the dollar, with a tendency toward gradual depreciation).

Continuously high inflation is a major threat for the vast rural population, which lives on the breadline. Inflation was extremely high in 2008 (26%). After a short decrease in 2009 – 2010 (on average 4.3%), inflation has increased and is expected to reach 10% in 2013, caused by heavy foreign aid, a phenomenon internationally known as “Dutch Disease.” The government temporarily tried to find a remedy in lowering taxes for basic goods in 2012. However, inflation control is difficult, with prices for food and general agricultural products, a high proportion of the country’s consumable goods, subject to the vagaries of changing weather conditions.


The government’s heavy reliance on the inflow of aid resources has forced it to more or less follow conditions of financial orthodoxy set by external donor institutions. This is reflected in the newest PRSP (2012). In principle, however, fiscal discipline is a low priority for the government, as opposed to more popular agendas such as the extension of basic services. Nevertheless, public debt stood in 2009 at only 36.9% of GDP, a reduction from 111% compared with 2008. Given the extensive quota system laid out in the constitution, the government is furthermore obliged to maintain an oversized army and police force, as well as public sector.

During its latest review of the new three-year ECF, in July 2012, the IMF confirmed that the macroeconomic goals have been generally met despite unfavorable conditions. However, important fiscal reforms are still pending.

9 | Private Property

Property rights

Property rights have long been formally defined by law, but their application and defense have always been precarious. Existing property rights regulations are far from satisfactory. Registering property for business ventures is extremely cumbersome and lengthy. The judiciary is prone to corruption and unable to guarantee the legality of property acquisition and dispossession.

Conflict over land ownership is one of the most pressing issues in Burundi today. Land is scarce and the return of refugees creates conflicts over ownership. In many rural areas, customary law deprives women of the right to property and inheritance of land. Existing regulations – including the National Commission for Land and Other Possessions (CNTB), as well as the newly established hill councils – are contested and so far have yielded unsatisfactory results. Traditional conflict resolution mechanisms were largely corrupted before and during the war; as a result, they have lost credibility.

Access to loans is extremely limited, resulting in persistent imbalances in the possession of land and real estate. Houses in Bujumbura and large rural estates are almost exclusively owned by the old Tutsi economic elite, CNDD-FDD cronies and foreigners.

Private enterprise

The Burundian economy is largely based on an informal and subsistence-focused agricultural sector. Privatization in this sphere would be dangerous at this stage of structural difficulties.

The state remains the largest employer, with 73,000 civil servants. With regard to public enterprises, the government is supposed to base employment policies on objective and equitable suitability criteria, as well as on the need to correct imbalances and ensure broad ethnic, regional and gender representation. It therefore argues against privatization of public enterprises. In reality, however, the public sector is almost exclusively under the control of the ruling party, and positions are doled out according to party loyalty rather than merit.

Nevertheless, some privatizations took place (including the coffee sector), though often with direct and dubious influence by the government, and in ways that were inconsistent with market principles or social requirements.

In principle, existing private companies can operate freely. According to the Doing Business Ranking of 2013, Burundi has significantly improved its business conditions. The private sector is growing but faces many constraints, such as difficult access to financing; lack of basic infrastructure, such as energy, communication and transport; and considerable bureaucratic and occasionally direct political interference. This is reflected in the foreign direct investment figures, which have stagnated at nearly nothing for years, despite efforts to attract capital through the Investment Code of 2008. The CNDD-FDD elite has tried to establish a presence in the formal private sector but has had little success due to a lack of capital and expertise. This can be read as a sign that there are at least limits to the power and capacity of the ruling party, despite its control of political institutions and parts of the security apparatus.

10 | Welfare Regime

Social safety nets

Burundi lacks public social safety nets for most of its population, excepting a small group of government and parastatal institution employees, including the top echelons of the military. Even for these figures, resources provided are fairly minimal. Recently, policymakers decided to subsidize maternity care and healthcare for children under five years of age and HIV and malaria patients. The government’s goal, set in the PRSP II, of enrolling 50% of the population in the informal sector and 40% of the rural sector in a health insurance system appears out of reach in the near future.

The long years of civil war have disturbed or even destroyed traditional social structures in many areas, but most features of traditional rural solidarity systems have survived to a considerable extent, and still provide a crucial foundation for at least a minimal social safety net for individuals within a family or village context. By far the biggest problems are faced by the many former refugees, internally displaced persons and returned ex-combatants, created by the war, who have been (and to a minor extent still are) repatriated into uncertain surroundings without being able to fall back on any organized safety systems. Even the traditional village-level solidarity is being strained due to the effects of extreme overpopulation in the rural areas and worsening ecological conditions.

Equal opportunity

The long history of ethnic discrimination is still felt, and it will take many more years to overcome the gap in education and economic status between Hutu and Tutsi. The urban Tutsi elite can still benefit from their historical privilege, given their generally higher educational level and urban and rural property ownership. Within the rural population, the socioeconomic gap between Hutu and Tutsi has never been as accentuated as among the elites, and it has begun to diminish considerably.

Since the introduction of free primary education in 2005, access to basic education is distributed evenly among ethnic groups and genders. Looking at higher education levels, discrimination against women is considerable (with only 54% female-to-male enrollment in tertiary education, as opposed to 98% in primary education). In terms of access to employment, ethnic and gender quotas have begun to improve access to opportunities for the hitherto marginalized groups of Hutu and women, but this is only the case where the quotas apply (i.e., in political and administrative positions). Furthermore, the government’s clientelistic politics (and need for control) favors individuals loyal to the CNDD-FDD at all levels of the public sector. Thus, even in rural areas, political affiliation is slowly becoming an important factor in access to opportunity.

Women are discriminated against despite a gender quota of at least 30% women in all political institutions. Little has changed concerning the cultural exclusion of women from decision-making in the household, inequality in customary law (most importantly concerning inheritance and property rights) and the high risk to women and girls of gender-based violence.

The Twa ethnic group remains almost completely shut out from any opportunities, despite the legal mandate to integrate the Twa into political institutions.

11 | Economic Performance

Output strength

Burundi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 93% of the population living under the poverty line of $2 a day and per capita GDP based on purchasing power parity having stagnated at $600 for many years. In Africa, only the Democratic Republic of Congo’s PPP GDP is lower. More than 90% of the population lives on tiny plots of land that hardly yield enough food for subsistence, leading to the undernourishment of large parts of the population and the requirement to import food.

Inflation continuous to plague the country, reaching 9.7% in 2011. Despite a number of initiatives undertaken since 2005, overall macroeconomic performance has remained disappointing and even lackluster, although this has been partially attributable to unfavorable climatic conditions (drought, floods) and corruption.

A new ECF (about $6 million) was accorded in February 2012. During its last review of the ongoing ECF, the IMF confirmed that the macroeconomic goals, including continuing GDP growth (2008: 5.0%, 2009: 3.5%, 2010: 3.8%, 2011: 4.2%, 2012 prognosis: 4.2%) have been met despite unfavorable conditions. However, these goals were not very ambitious in the first place, and the set goals for the second ECF were revised downwards right after the first review. Growth remains below the African average. Major reforms of tax revenue, finance and debt management are still due.

The negative current account balance slightly decreased to 13% of GDP, but this figure has little informative value as almost 50% of Burundi’s GDP is externally funded. Given the limited possibilities for increasing the production of agrarian export goods (coffee, tea, cotton, sugar), the value of imports has continually grown faster than have export receipts, with no sign of improvement of the structural trade deficit. The government has so far not presented any plans to develop dormant potentials of the country, such as hydroelectric power and the exploitation of its few mineral resources. Instead, it relies fully on foreign aid. The PRSP set unrealistic goals as it is largely drafted to please the IMF and World Bank and hardly considers the particular situation in Burundi.

12 | Sustainability

Environmental policy

Given the long civil war and immediate problems (poverty, overpopulation), little attention has been paid to safeguarding the longer-term sustainability of various environmental factors.

Burundi occupies one of the lowest ranks in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI, 2008: rank 132 out of 149; 2010: 140/163; 2012 no ranking due to missing data). The most pressing problems are soil erosion due to overgrazing and the extension of agriculture into marginal lands, the decline in Lake Tanganyika’s water level and deforestation for agriculture and fuel. Given the extreme land scarcity and population pressure due to high birth rates and refugee returns, measures to stop environmental degradation are urgently needed. Conflicts over land will be on the increase in coming years.

However, the government has so far neglected these pressing issues. In its new PRSP (August 2012), the government commits to environmental protection and sustainable resource management. It is too early to assess the sincerity of these commitments.

Education policy / R&D

The entire education system suffered heavily during the civil war. Most rural schools were closed, and many teachers and professors were killed or exiled. In the run-up to the elections of 2005, education (as well as health) was declared one of the major concerns of the new government. An amazing 9.2% of gross national product (GNP) seems to have gone into education in 2010. However, the share of GNP is somewhat misleading, as it includes the high amount of foreign aid going into education.

One of the popular measures of the CNDD-FDD during its first term in office was to introduce free primary education for all. As a consequence, the number of pupils suddenly shot up without adequate provision of teachers, classrooms or school supplies. Gross primary school enrollment continuously increased, from 88% in 2005 to 165% in 2011 (due to a backlog of older children now going to school), with near gender equality. The enrollment rate plunged to 28% (2011) for secondary education, and only 3% (2010) for tertiary education, with female-to-male enrollment dropping to only 54%.

Due to the long marginalization of the majority Hutu population, the literacy rate of 66% (60% women, 72% men) is below average in Africa. Significant efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of education are still needed. R&D expenditures in 2008 amounted to 2.1% of GDP, an average figure. However, given generally low GDP and the fact that most of the expenditures come from foreign aid, this is still very low. Modern R&D activities are practically nonexistent. The national university in Bujumbura is inadequately equipped and the level of teaching quality is low.



I. Level of Difficulty

Structural constraints

The structural constraints hampering successful political and economic transformation are extremely high. They include a very low absolute level of economic and social development; a difficult geographical situation (landlocked, high-cost transport arteries); precarious ecological conditions; extreme overpopulation in combination with limited land resources; an extremely high incidence of poverty; the need to integrate many returning refugees, internally displaced persons and ex-combatants back into society; poor infrastructure; a lingering ethnic polarization (although this no longer inevitably present in daily life) with memories of a very violent recent history; a generally low level of education (mainly among Hutus); a lack of experience with market-based entrepreneurship; and a still relatively inexperienced group of political leaders (from the standpoint of technical and administrative competencies).

Civil society traditions

Traditions of civil society organization are fairly weak, and are largely confined to the Tutsi community in urban Bujumbura, although this situation has begun to change quite remarkably during the last few years. More organized forms of civil society are beginning to emerge at the local level, and Bujumbura-based NGOs are expanding their activities into rural areas. Interethnic reconciliation increasingly is becoming an active part of civil society work, be it only by encouraging collective activities. However, all these developments are still in their early stages, and the long history of ethnic discrimination, which resulted in an urban and Tutsi bias for organized civil society, is still felt.

Furthermore, the government is highly skeptical of civil society organizations. This is partly due to its Tutsi bias and consequent imagined or real opposition to the Hutu-led government. More importantly, the CNDD-FDD’s grip on power means that the dissident voices of civil society activists are silenced. Thus, the flourishing of civil society is actively hampered by the Burundian government.

Despite its weakness in organizational capacity and scope, civil society in Burundi – most importantly independent media – is, for the time being, the only credible counterbalance to the increasingly authoritarian regime and a more and more fragmented and unreliable political opposition.

Conflict intensity

Burundian society has been traditionally characterized by deep-rooted ethnic division, which subjected the majority Hutu (and the small minority Twa) to an oppressive – and at times genocidal – rule by a small Tutsi elite. Within the traditional elites, community conflicts between different subsections have at times played out brutally, leading to a power bias in favor of a group with historically minor status, the Tutsi-Hima. These splits resulted in a shift in regional favoritism from the center (where the old Ganwa monarchy was based) to the southern province of Bururi.

The relation between Hutu and Tutsi – who share a common language, culture and religion – has always had a very tangible socioeconomic dimension, thus constituting more of a class relation than anything else. The elite consists almost exclusively of urban Tutsi, while the difference in living standards between the rural Hutu and Tutsi has never been pronounced. The fundamental conflict has revolved around access to power and resources, including the very scarce arable land, culminating in more than a decade of bloody civil war starting in 1993.

The 2000 peace agreement and subsequent constitution very much focused on the alleviation of ethnic discrimination by introducing a complex ethnic power-sharing system. Indeed, the new political order and the holding of the free and fair elections in 2005, which resulted in a democratically legitimate Hutu-led government, has, to a large extent, led to the appeasement of the original inter-communal conflict to the point that ethnicity has ceased to be the most important conflict line. However, some fundamental underlying conflict issues – a huge gap between the (urban) rich and the (rural) poor, clientelism, corruption, oppression of dissident voices, and the concentration of power in the hands of a small and often ruthless elite – have not been sufficiently addressed. This has led to the somewhat paradoxical situation that the ruling CNDD-FDD, although adhering to the legal requirements of the constitution, such as ethnic quotas and the inclusion of other political parties into the government, in practice concentrates political power almost exclusively in its own hands. The result is the resurgence of a fierce power struggle between the CNDD-FDD and the political opposition (mainly the FNL, but also the CNDD of Nyangoma). This struggle is largely based on personal conflicts and splits within the Hutu elite that occurred before and during the civil war, rather than different ideological positions. This conflict has led to the resurgence of violence of the FNL and small self-proclaimed rebel groups, operating again from the neighboring South Kivu province of the DRC.

II. Governance Performance


14 | Steering Capability


In principle, the government is willing to focus on long-term goals regarding constitutional democracy and a socially responsible market economy as laid out in a socioeconomic program dubbed Vision Burundi 2025. Since October 2012, the second generation of PRSP is supposed to translate the strategic pillars of Vision Burundi 2025 into projects and programs. The PRSP follows almost 100% of the guidelines of the IMF and World Bank and hardly takes Burundi’s social, political and economic particularities into consideration. The PRSP is written in order to secure further external funding. Donors believe it would be effective, but they are hardly realistic about the situation on the ground. Despite dealing unsatisfactorily with questions of political oppression, these programs won $2.5 billion in international aid at a donor conference in late 2012. Priority has so far been given to the improvement of sectors serving basic needs, such as primary education and maternal and child health. Although much has been done in these areas over the last years, the improvement was mostly felt with regard to the quantity rather than the quality of the services. Little progress has been made in other areas.

The capacity of the government for policy formulation is extremely limited. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the IMF are setting the goals and deciding on the financial means. Given the country’s overwhelming dependency on external aid if any substantial national development is to take place, and given the relative lack of national expertise, the role of the external agencies in setting priorities will remain very strong, and the level of national decision-making correspondingly somewhat weak.

Despite the rhetorical commitment and the international support, it is doubtful that the government will be able to continuously follow and maintain its set priorities. Very substantial political and socioeconomic problems, and the pressing demands for short-term relief of the dire socioeconomic situation of the population, restrain the government’s ability to pursue strategic long-term goals. Furthermore, amid a hostile political climate and the government’s increasingly authoritarian style, long-term goals are very often sidelined by short-term interests, particularly maintaining and extending the ruling elite’s power.


In principle, the government is willing to implement its own policies. However, a lack of resources and administrational and technical expertise, paired with high corruption and favoritism, impedes effective implementation of many policies. To a large extent, implementation is highly dependent on donors.

With regard to its political aims, the ruling party has been quite successful in implementing programs securing its political appeal, that is, policies regarding the provision of basic services, such as schooling or health care. However, the success is more of a quantitative than qualitative nature, and it is not necessarily in compliance with objective overall developmental goals.

Policy learning

The political leadership has generally proved to be fairly flexible, even to some extent simply opportunistic, in its pursuit of concrete policy measures.

It has clearly learned from past experience with respect to avoiding ethnic polarization, and has been cautious to adhere, for the most part, to the provisions of the constitution, including a sufficient number of Tutsis in leadership positions and avoiding the ostentatious promotion of too many Hutus without regard to formal merit criteria (although political cronies without professional experience have been given positions of responsibility). The overcoming of ethnic polarization is a historical step that outweighs many other defects of the government and is conceived as such by the population. However, it has become increasingly apparent that the ruling party’s elite has problems unlearning the military approach to politics that the CNDD-FDD embraced during its time as an armed movement. Past experience concerning the violent consequences of authoritarianism, state-sponsored violence and exclusion do not seem to impede the CNDD-FDD from resorting to similar measures as former authoritarian governments, with the significant difference that the exclusion is no longer based primarily on ethnic affiliation.

With respect to socioeconomic policies, the government has shown hardly any rigid ideological convictions, but there has also been little in terms of innovative approaches. The prevailing attitude is one of pragmatism, largely in line with the requirements outlined by donors, on which Burundi is heavily dependent. Governmental activities are generally characterized by administrative routine, and much less by efforts to introduce dynamic or innovative new approaches. Widespread postwar expectations of new, dynamic development policies have thus been disappointed so far.

15 | Resource Efficiency

Efficient use of assets

In all past regimes in Burundi, the state’s efficiency in utilizing financial and human resources was quite low, and largely determined by patronage considerations, a bloated bureaucracy and the resource hunger of dominant security organs. During his first term, President Nkurunziza found it difficult to change this situation significantly, even if he was initially willing to try. Since the contested elections of 2010, and with a deepening corruption crisis, the government has become increasingly incredible in its commitments to the efficient use of assets. Public recruitment and procurement is riddled with political influence. Effective and independent auditing is almost nonexistent.

Decentralization reforms are underway; however, and the CNDD-FDD is omnipresent even at lower levels of the administration.

Furthermore, given the complex power-sharing formula in the constitution, the government is obliged to balance the efficient use of resources with the fulfillment of quotas for public employment; it is also forced to retain an oversized military and police force.

Policy coordination

The complex composition of the government, mandated by the constitution’s quota requirements, makes efficient coordination of the activities of various ministries and other public bodies very difficult, since the politicians in decision-making positions tend to seek to bolster their own public profiles and pursue their own priorities without adhering to a coherent and coordinated overall government strategy. The almost unchallenged control the CNDD-FDD gained after the boycotted elections of 2010 facilitates policy coordination. However, this does not necessarily improve matters. The ruling style of the government has become increasingly authoritarian, effectively undermining democratic checks and balances as the government exerts authority based on patronage and corruption rather than democratic standards and efficiency.

Anti-corruption policy

The government put the fight against corruption at the center of its program for 2005 – 2010 and, in 2010, pledged to make an anticorruption drive one of its priorities in its second term. A series of anticorruption institutions have been created, such as a specialized anticorruption police brigade and an anticorruption court.

However, the evidence over the last seven years has clearly shown an alarmingly high level of corruption at all levels, including the very top of the government. Petty corruption is especially pronounced in the police and judiciary. Isolated cases of corruption have been prosecuted, but, by and large, a climate of impunity prevails.

Anticorruption measures have become even less credible since the ruling party gained almost unchallenged control over all state administration after the election boycott in 2010. Public procurement and employment in the public sector have become increasingly politicized, as the government has to make sure to satisfy the demands of supporters of the ruling party and not to disturb the fragile power-sharing arrangement with former enemies. In fact, clientelism is essential to the CNDD-FDD’s cohesion, and anticorruption measures are therefore largely meant to appease donors rather than to seriously fight corruption. Proximity to the government is generally prioritized over criteria of competence and merit. This is especially frustrating for young educated Tutsi who feel sidelined due to the wrong party affiliation. This is a serious source of potential violent conflict in the future.

16 | Consensus-Building

Consensus on goals

In principle, all relevant actors agree with the concept of consociational democracy as codified in the 2005 constitution, stipulating a complex ethnic (and gender) quota system in all public elected and administrative bodies and the security organs. The consociational model includes the overrepresentation of Tutsi (most importantly in the military and police) and a minority veto. These provisions constitute the indispensable security guarantee that was decisive in ending the civil war. Although all sides are to some degree critical of the provisions, they are regarded as a necessary evil to secure the fragile peace for the time being.

The new conflict over fraud charges connected with the 2010 elections does not fundamentally invalidate the agreement on consociational rule. What has become apparent since 2010, however, is that the consociational model, as laid out in the constitution, does not foreclose the relapse into a de facto one-party (albeit multiethnic) state. Legally, all requirements of the constitution are fulfilled by the government, including ethnic quotas and the presence of a minor coalition partner (UPRONA). However, the opposition claims that the government does not act in the spirit of Arusha, which envisages dialogue as the basis of political life in Burundi. There is thus decreasing consensus on the interpretation of the peace agreement and constitution. Furthermore, one has to be careful not to mistake the conviction that consociational democracy is currently the only available option with a genuine belief in democratic principles (see “anti-democratic actors”). The agreement on consociational rule by no means signifies that the government and opposition adhere to the idea of democracy as such. Rather, the current system of consociational rule allows the government to consolidate its political (and financial) power. The opposition is afraid of being sidelined on the same level and simply uses the rhetoric of consociational democracy and dialogue to discredit the government and (re)gain a share in the institutions. Thus the consensus, in fact, is that the current political system is seen as the best means to gain power and jobs.

There appears to be a somewhat vague consensus on general market economic principles among most political actors, but the state is still widely expected to take primary responsibility for promoting development and rebalancing existing inequities of wealth distribution. Given the historical socioeconomic discrimination, most political actors (Tutsi elites to a much lesser extent) agree on the fact that blunt market liberalization would thwart efforts to redress historical inequalities.

The high corruption in Burundi furthermore suggests that major political actors are only interested in a liberal market economy as long as it does not interfere with their own interests.

Anti-democratic actors

The distinction between democratic reformers and antidemocratic veto actors has, since the controversial 2010 election cycle, become extremely blurred, as there is evidence of antidemocratic elements among all competing groups (government and opposition).

During the election period, the CNDD-FDD exploited its control of the public administration, thereby severely distorting the playing field in the electoral contest. The opposition, for its part, violated the principles of competitive democracy by boycotting the presidential and parliamentary elections (except UPRONA), leaving voters no choice but to abstain or vote for the CNDD-FDD and its allies. As a result of the election turmoil, major opposition leaders went into exile and parts of the FNL in eastern DRC returned to armed violence. The FNL took second place in the 2010 communal elections before initiating the boycott. Although no outright rebellion is probable in the short term, parts of the FNL no longer accept democratic principles – indeed, they might have never adhered to them in the first place).

Ever since the boycott, the CNDD-FDD has rejected any political dialogue, claiming that the opposition squandered its legitimacy by disrespecting the democratic values of the Burundian state. At the same time, the government has made use of all available means to control and intimidate dissident voices: It introduced legal changes restricting the establishment of political parties, as well as the freedom of expression and assembly, and increasingly uses its security organs (mostly police and secret services, as well as Imbonerakure youth brigades) mainly against members of the FNL.

Efforts by national and international NGOs (and churches) to establish a dialogue between the government and the opposition have repeatedly been boycotted by the leadership of both the CNDD-FDD and the FNL.

Thus all sides engage in unfair play while claiming that they only react to the other side’s antidemocratic behavior. It is unlikely that government and opposition will conduct a normalized democratic contest until the elections of 2015. The government will not allow any viable opposition as its challenger. As the opposition is split and has no credible political program either, it is also unlikely that they would attract many votes.

Cleavage / conflict management

The consociational democratic model stipulated by the 2005 constitution is the result of a lengthy peace process and transition period that aimed to overcome the deep-rooted political, social and economic cleavages that have long divided the Burundian society and ultimately culminated in a bloody civil war. The complex architecture of the new political order focuses on discrimination along ethnic (and to some extent gender) lines and to date has been able to gradually alleviate the ethnic conflict to the point that ethnicity has ceased to be the primary line of confrontation.

As typical for consociational systems, the interethnic confrontation has now shifted to an intra-ethnic power contest between several Hutu-dominated parties. Since the contested 2010 elections, the confrontation between members of the ruling party and the opposition (mainly the FNL) has seriously hardened. This cleavage today permeates all levels of the polity in the capital and in those areas where the FNL used to be strong. The result is a climate of fear of both repressive measures by the government and its stooges and attacks by a rearmed FNL and smaller self-proclaimed rebel groups. Given the dwindling support of the FNL and the general war fatigue in the population, it is unlikely that the cleavage will result in serious armed conflict. As the political leadership is part of the problem, it cannot be expected to play a moderating role. Efforts by churches and national and international civil society organizations have so far been boycotted by the higher echelons of both the CNDD-FDD and the FNL. This is not surprising, as the conflict is much less ideological than related to personal power. As long as both sides try to secure as much privilege as possible, dialogue will only be successful if it is aimed at accommodating elite interests.

Civil society participation

The present political leadership – like that of previous regimes – does not feel comfortable enough or sufficiently established to freely and generously accommodate the critical expressions of civil society groups, even though such groups are relatively weak, and limited in number and scope. Civil society actors are predominantly based in Bujumbura and still, although to a decreasing degree, Tutsi-dominated. The government regards civil society (most importantly human rights defenders and independent media) as hostile and makes use of many available means (legal and illegal) to suppress it. Intimidation, harassment and outright persecution by security agents of the state are on the rise.


There is a vague recognition of the need to deal constructively with the violent history of Burundi, but this has been largely ignored in the interest of preserving the current relatively peaceful coexistence between the former antagonists. Furthermore, given the fact that most political and military elites are in one way or another implicated in the commission of atrocities during the war years and earlier ethnic pogroms, they are reluctant to dig too deeply into the past. A truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) was proposed in the Arusha Peace Agreement. However, despite heavy international pressure, implementation has consistently been postponed. A technical committee for the establishment of the commission – staffed with personnel close to the government – started its work in 2011 and is supposed to finish by spring 2012, establishing the TRC 12 years after the signing of the peace agreement.

Although the majority of people interviewed in a public consultation by the technical committee, as well as the United Nations, opted for a mixed commission, the committee finally proposed a purely national composition. Furthermore, the focus of the new commission should be on forgiveness rather than punishment, even in cases of gross human rights abuses – which would amount in a de facto amnesty. In principle, the majority of the population appears ready to forgive. However, many ordinary people and civil society organizations fear the political manipulation of the commission in the context of the 2015 election campaign.

17 | International Cooperation

Effective use of support

Given the country’s structural deficiencies and the devastating effects of the long years of war, the government has no option but to rely very heavily on the support of international donors. Shortcomings in dealing with aid procedures and in making efficient use of available programs have occurred, but this was to be expected, and indeed was almost unavoidable. Over the years, this process has become more routine, but substantial scope for improvement remains. The PRSP II was drafted mostly externally and did not take into account hard facts regarding Burundian political and economic dynamics; thus it is hardly realistic. Still, the state administration generally attempts to at least appear to make good use of external support, knowing full well that there are hardly any other sources available. The president was anxious to disperse any doubts concerning the effective use of foreign aid by launching a zero-tolerance campaign and designing a national strategy for good governance after the 2010 elections.

Pervasive corruption and an increasingly authoritarian style of government so far have not deterred international donors from granting unexpectedly high support (around $2.5 billion in 2012).


When executing aid programs, the government tries to act as a reliable and credible partner in its dealings with international actors. However, credibility has seriously decreased with a deepening corruption crisis. Burundi is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and the World Bank placed it in the category of countries with mediocre institutional performance.

The government’s conduct before, during and after the 2010 elections has led practically all external observers and analysts to doubt the credibility of its commitment to democratic principles. Indeed, the democratic legitimacy of the government has been severely tainted over the last two years.

Still, international donors granted Burundi around $2.5 billion in October 2012, much more than the government expected. It thus seems that the international community continues to trust the government despite major doubts.

Regional cooperation

During the period of transitional governments (after 2000), Burundi was in fact involuntarily almost under the tutelage of regional neighbors (including South Africa). The government is fully aware of the need for good neighborly relations with all countries in the sub-region. Fairly cordial relations have been established above all with Rwanda and Tanzania, the country’s most important neighbors.

The full integration into the East African Community (EAC) in July 2007 was a major step toward better regional integration. Burundi remains the EAC’s weakest member. It largely depends on the other EAC members’ willingness to pursue the ambitious agenda of the EAC if the latter is to become an instrument for reducing Burundi’s economic and social problems.

Burundi provides large numbers of peacekeepers to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and enhanced military cooperation with the DRC in the fight against rebels in the Congolese border province of South Kivu.

Strategic Outlook

At the time of writing (January 2013), Burundi is experiencing a deep political crisis that has severely hardened since the elections of 2010. Political actors in Burundi do not pursue a genuine reform agenda but are concerned with their own power struggles. Both the ruling party and the opposition alliance are internally fragmented and do not present future-oriented strategies for transforming the political system to make it more democratic. On the contrary, actors within the central power structures are actively blocking the continuation of political transformation, which started in 2005 with very high expectations on the part of the population as well as international observers. The elections of 2015 will probably not change the system of rule. The dominant party will not allow any viable opposition. There is also no Hutu-led opposition in sight that can challenge the power of CNDD/FDD.

Though the ruling CNDD-FDD showed an increasingly authoritarian style, issuing intimidating threats against adversaries to undermine any genuinely level playing field, the political climate nevertheless remained relatively normal until the communal elections in May 2010. Following the balloting, charges of fraud made by all opposition parties and their subsequent boycott of the national elections severely upset the country’s consensus on the constitutional principles of consociational democracy. The boycott can be seen as a result of longstanding personal conflicts between the CNDD-FDD, the FNL and other opposition parties, which are all primarily concerned with securing political power and economic resources.

Over the last two years, the CNDD-FDD has effectively seized control over the entire administration. Although the constellation of the government is in line with the principles laid out in the constitution, the country is increasingly becoming a de facto one-party state. The coalition partners UPRONA and FRODEBU-Nyakuri are largely adhering to the ruling party’s will instead of counteracting its increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

The opposition alliance ADC-Ikibiri is itself internally split, does not adhere to democratic values either and does not present any viable alternative to the government’s policies.

Political dialogue has not yet resumed. On the contrary, harassment and intimidation by the security organs against opposition members, independent media and civil society activists are on the increase.

Parts of the FNL have renewed alliances with Congolese rebels in the Congolese border province of South Kivu. Several smaller self-proclaimed rebel groups have engaged in smaller attacks or were involved in clashes with the army.

A further escalation of the political crisis could effectively mean a relapse into an authoritarian and exclusionary political system similar to the prewar configuration and seriously endanger the hard-won peace. This looming negative scenario ought to be actively addressed by Burundi’s sub-regional neighbors and the wider international community. Unfortunately, despite very close and influential involvement in earlier years, and notwithstanding the narrowing of political space in the last two years, little outside attention is presently paid to the Burundian political conflict.

Donor countries and agencies should exert persistent diplomatic pressure and use their financial leverage in order to push the Burundian government toward genuine political liberalization. Given that the country is extremely dependent on foreign aid, this would probably have a noticeable effect, but has not to date been pursued strictly enough. Although pressing questions concerning human rights abuses by security organs and the intimidation and harassment of opposition members have not been answered, the donor community granted the Burundian government $2.5 billion in 2012 – nearly twice as much as the ruling elite expected.

Particular emphasis should be given to a renewal of political dialogue as prescribed by the Arusha Peace Agreement. Pressure should be put on both the government and opposition parties to engage in a political dialogue to discuss the ongoing conflict and find at least some common ground for preparation for the 2015 elections.

The international community should also focus its attention on the promotion of media pluralism through active support of independent media and by taking a clear stance concerning new oppressive laws effectively restricting dissident voices.

Given the high population pressure, extreme land scarcity and increasing droughts, there is a pronounced need for improved environment protection measures suitable to the current socioeconomic situation, which has so far been neglected.

A lot remains to be done concerning the transformation of the economy toward a more socially sustainable and equality-oriented economy. Corruption and nepotism are on the increase. In October 2012, the government presented the second generation of PRSPs to the international community. Unsurprisingly, the PRSP takes up internationally expected key topics of political and economic reform, such as poverty reduction, good governance, the rule of law, gender justice, sustainable growth and stability-oriented money, fiscal and exchange politics. In February 2012, the new three-year ECF (around $6 million) was granted. The tendency of the international donors will thus remain to continue aid without meaningful conditions, as aid transfers are less costly than renewed civil war, especially with regard to developments in the neighboring DRC.

However, it will be important to focus on the implementation of the (so far rhetorical) promises of political and economic reform in order to improve the dire situation of large parts of the rural population and not to further exacerbate the increasingly polarized political climate. Externally drafted PRSPs that are unrealistic, in that they do not take the situation on the ground under consideration, but instead aspire to goals set by the IMF and World Bank, are obviously not the best means to reach this aim.