Burundi: Pierre Nkurunzia second term without the opposition, a concern

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Since August 29, President Nkurunziza has formed a new government to serve with him during his second term.   Nkurunziza, the only presidential candidate, won his second term in office on June 28 with an overwhelming majority of votes of 92.62 percent.   His party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy- Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) won 81 of the 106 seats in the National Assembly, and 32 of the 34 seats in the senate elections.  It is likely that the ruling party dominance will affect Burundian democracy, peace and stability.

For the senate, the other two seats went to the one opposition party, l’Uprona (Coalition for National Progress), which did not participate in the opposition call to boycott the legislative elections.   According to the Burundian constitution, each of the 17 provinces has two representatives of which one must be of the majority Hutu ethnic group and the other from the minority Tutsi ethnic group. In addition there are 3 seats reserved for the Twa ethnic group which represents 1% of the population. Of the 34 elected senators in 2010, 17 are women and 17 are men.  Because former heads of state serve in the Senate for life according to the constitution, Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, Slverstre Ntinantunganya, Pierre Buyoya and Domitien Ntayizeye are automatically members of the senate.

For the first time Pierre Nkurunziza has made history as the first elected Burundian President to serve his full term despite a long history of military coups and assassinations.   Also, under Nkurunziza, with the help of the international community, the last rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa put down its weapons in April 2009 and joined the opposition.  Unfortunately, Mr. Rwasa is back into hiding in the neighboring country of the Democratic Rep. of the Congo, for fear of being arrested due to complex political tensions that escalated recently before and during the elections.

There is fear that violence could resume if President Nkurunziza does not implement the clauses of the Arusha agreement signed on August 28, 2000 which includes among other things power sharing.  Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) believes that the political situation in Burundi deserves exceptional attention and must be approached with a sense of urgency. Henri Boshoff and Ralph Ellermann in their paper Burundi: Elections without competition and no peace without participation: where might it go from here?, suggest that a more comprehensive international effort be launched to get the democratic process back on track. With Mr. Rwasa back in hiding, it is likely that soon or later those who are equally discontent with Nkurunziza centralization of power will join him and start up another insurgence.

During the Presidential campaign, between June 1st and July 8th, there were at least 116 grenade attacks in Bujumbura and surrounding neighborhoods targeting the ruling party CNDD-FDD according to a report by Amnesty International.  The same report mentions that over this period, among those arrested, 12 people were allegedly tortured by the National Intelligence Service (SNR) as part of the investigation.   If these allegations are confirmed, Burundi will have failed to comply with its international obligations, particularly Article 12 of the convention against torture, a convention that Burundi ratified in 1993, Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Burundi in 1990.

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