BURUNDI-Turbulent Country goes to a Key Election amid Corona Virus Pandemic

Pre-Independence History

YEAR 10,000-15,000-Hutu and Tutsi People settle in present Day Burundi to form Urundi Kingdom.

1890-Urundi Kingdom and neighboring Ruanda Kingdom (Present Day Rwanda) are annexed into One Urundi-Ruanda Territory by Germans. The Germans rule the Territory for 26-Years until 1916 when Belgium Forces invaded and captured the Territory driving Germans out. The League of Nations later in 1923 gave Belgium Mandate to govern the Territory.

Agitation for Independence begins in the 1950’s.1960 Prince Louis Rwagasore the eldest Son of the then King of Urundi Mwambutsa IV-a Tutsi Monarchy starts mobilizing People under his “Union of National Progress-UPRONA” to demand for Independence from Belgium Colonialists. Under intense Pressure and Resistance Belgium Authorities give way for for Legislative Elections on September 1961 in readiness to leave the Territory. Prince Rwagasore Party UPRONA won 58/64 Seats making him the first Prime Minister of the Territory. A Month later, PM/Prince Rwagasore was Assasinated on October 13,1961 at a Hotel in Bujumbura in what is said and believed to have been a Scheme by Belgian Authorities. His 2 young Children died mysteriously a few Months later. On October 2018 the Government of Burundi openly accused Belgium saying Belgium Authorities were “True Backers in the Assassination of Prince Rwagasore” who is Today Celebrated in Burundi every Year as a Hero of Independence.

July 1,1962-Urundi-Ruanda Territory gain Independence as separate Territories; Republic of Rwanda and and Kingdom of Burundi. An Attempt by Belgium to join the 2 Territories towards Independence fails amid escalating Tension and deadly supremacy Battle that claimed Thousands of Lives between Hutus via Parmehutu Movement and Tutsis UNAR Movement in their struggle for Independence. The UN urged Belgium to grant the 2 Independence as separate Territories in a bid to calm the Tension.

Post-Independence History

A new Independent Kingdom of Burundi is established still under Tutsi Monarchy led King Mwambutsa IV. Violent Conflict between Hutu and Tutsi across Burundi and Rwanda leaves Thousands Dead between 1963 to 1966.

May 1965 Legislative Elections saw a big Victory for the Hutus. King Mwambutsa a Tutsi was expected to Appoint a Hutu Prime Minister as a result. His failure to do this creates Anger among the Hutus. The then Army Chief General Michel Micombero a Hutu leads an unsuccessful Coup to Oust King Mwambutsa forcing him to flee to Exile in Switzerland on October 1965. On March 1966 King Mwambutsa from Exile names his Son as the Heir to the Throne. A young King Ntare took over to continue with his Father’s Reign on July 1966. 5 Months later King Ntare gets Ousted by General Micombero on November 1966 forcing him to also flee to Exile.

General Michel Micombero declares himself President bringing Burundi’s Monarchy to an End technically becoming Burundi’s first President. The Ouster of King Mwambutsa and his Son King Ntare angered the Hutus and they started rebelling against the Tutsi-led Government under General Micombero. On March 1972 deposed King Ntare returns to Burundi amid escalating Hutu Rebellion. The Hutu Rebels even came to a point of declaring their Independent Territory of Martyazo within Burundi. Ntare who had been placed under House Arrest was Killed on April 29,1972. This triggered the first Genocide in Burundi when General Micombero ordered Violent quashing of the Hutu Revolt. Between 150,000-300,000 Hutus were killed in what is Today remembered as Ikiza or Ubwicanyi Genocide.

November 1976-Opponents of General Micombero within the Army led by Colonel Jean Baptiste another Tutsi Army Officer lead a successful Coup to overthrow Micombero’s Regime. Although Col.Baptiste also ruled with an Iron Fist, his Regime is credited for some Hutu-Tutsi Calm and Reconciliation Efforts and some Economic Structures in Burundi. While on a Trip to Canada, Col.Baptiste was Overthrown by Major Pierre Buyoya another Tutsi Army Officer. Major Buyoya promises to mend Relations between Hutu and Tutsi Tribes. He did not live up to his Promise and this triggered another Hutu Uprising in 1988 leading to the Killing of Tens of Thousands most of them being Hutus.

Buyoya created a Commission to carry out an Inquest into the Violence. The Commission came up with a New Constitution that advocated for a Non-Ethnic Government in 1992. The very first Democratic Multi-party Elections were held on June 1993 and Melchior Ndadaye a Hutu Intellectual won with 66% defeating incumbent Major Buyoya who came second with 33%. True to Democracy, Major Buyoya stepped down and Ndadaye was sworn in on July 1993. In a bid to have a United Country President Ndadaye Appointed a Tutsi Woman Sylvie Kinigi as his Prime Minister. Barely 3 Months into Office, his Attempts to Unify the 2 Warring Hutu-Tutsi Communities did not augur well with the Tutsi-dominated Army. On October 21,1993; Soldiers layed Siege to his Palace in Bujumbura and shot him severally leading to his Death. The Murder of President Ndadaye sparked another a Genocide and Civil War that lingered in Burundi for over 10 Years between October 1993-August 2005. Francois Ngeze a Hutu Civilian took over as an acting President for One Week before the Army moving in to replace him with Ndadaye’s Prime Minister Sylvie Kinigi who was installed as an acting President between October 1993-February 1994. Technically, Sylvie became Africa’s first Woman President.

February 1994-the Parliament Appointed former Agriculture Minister Cyprien Ntaryamira a Hutu as the New President. Again this did not augur well with some Elements in the Tutsi-dominated Army. Barely 2 Months into Office, a Plane carrying President Ntaryamira and his Burundian Counterpart Juvenal Habyarimana also a Hutu was shot down towards Kigali Airport in Rwanda on April 6,1994 killing both and Everyone on board. This sparked Rwanda’s 100 Days Genocide that claimed the Lives of 800,000 People most of them from the Tutsi Community.

Sylvester Ntibantunganya  then then Leader of Burundi’s Parliament took over as President in an acting Capacity between April 1994-July 1996 when former President Major Pierre Buyoya overthrew him and took Power. Major Buyoya a Tutsi appointed a Hutu Vice President one Domitien Ndayizeye in a bid to calm the Civil War. On June 1998 President Buyoya saw the Promulgation of a Transition Constitution that created a Transitional Government after Negotiations then being led by Tanzania’s first President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. April 2003, President Buyoya stepped down and his Vice President Domitien Ndayiyeze took over as per the Transition Agreement. Burundi Peace Talks were by then being led by South Africa’s late President Nelson Mandela after the Death of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere on October 1999. President Ndayiyeze ruled until August 2005 when he handed over to former Hutu Rebel Leader then Minister for Good Governance and now the sitting/outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza after the signing of the final Peace Agreement; Arusha Accords signed on August 2000 under the Chief Negotiator Sir Nelson Mandela. This marked the start of a Ceasefire to a deadly Civil War that is estimated to have claimed the Lives of up to 300,000 Burundians this time across the 2 Main Hutu and Tutsi Communities and even from Burundi’s Smallest Community; the ‘Twa’ People between October 1993-August 2005.

President Pierre Nkurunziza Autocratic Regime

After Victory in Legislative Elections, Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD Party Appointed him the President and he was Sworn in on August 26,2005. Fast-forward to 2010, Nkurunziza is sworn in for a Second Term after a disputed Election that he ran against himself. All Candidates withdrew citing Intimidation and lack of Transparency after a Violent Campaign pitting Nkurunziza’s Regime Forces against the Opposition. Nkurunziza was Announced the Unopposed Winner of the June 2010 Election with 91%.  His main Rivals among them Agathon Rwasa also a former Hutu FNL Rebel Leader who had already gone into hiding dismissed the Election as Sham.

Nkurunziza went to rule for another 5-Years until 2015 when he was expected to step down as per the 2000 Peace Accord. To the Shock of Everyone, Nkurunziza decided to blatantly violate the Terms of an Accord that ended a dealy Civil War by running for a controversial Third Term using a controversial Court Ruling on May 2015 and what is believed to have been a staged Coup to illegally cling on to Power. In another boycotted Poll, Nkurunziza ran alone garnering 70% of the Votes. This sparked yet another deadly Conflict that claimed the Lives of at least 1,200 People forcing over 400,000 others to flee their Homes between 2015 to early 2019. Using his Regime Forces and a State-sponsored Youth Militia known as ‘Imborenakure’; Nkrunziza unleashed Terror in a Violent Clampdown against Opposition, Critics, Civil Society and the Media with arbitrary Arrests, Detentions, Torture, Abductions and Summary Executions to stamp his Authority. The deadly Conflict and Violence before and after 2015 saw the ICC approve an Inquest on November 2017 a Month after Nkurunziza leading Burundi to become the first Country ever to leave the International Criminal Court-ICC Statute on October 2017. In a Controversial Referendum of May 2018 that was also characterized by significant Violence and Boycott; Nkurunziza’s Government introduced Constitutional Changes increasing Presidential Term Lengths from 5-7 Years and Provisions to revise Ethnic Quotas. These Two Amendments being contrary to the Dictates of the Arusha Peace Accord of 2000. September 2018 Nkurunziza’s Government declared 3 UN-Human Rights Officials as Persona Non Grata revoking their Visas to Burundi. The 3 were investigating the Impact of the Violence that started in 2015 and their preliminary Findings accused Nkurunziza’s Government for violating Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity.

Burundi May 20,2020 General Elections

AMID a deadly escalating Threat of the Global Corona Virus Pandemic; a highly Infectious/Contagious Virus that has already claimed the Lives of 320,000 People with another 5 Million battling with the Disease in Hospitals across the World; Burundi is set to Vote in a New President to Succeed Incumbent Nkurunziza and a New Parliament this Wednesday May 20,2020. Burundi has To-date reported 42 Cases and 1 Death from this Virus after less than 1000 Tests across the Country’s 11.8 Million People. This Number does not represent the real CoronaVirus Situation in the Country which according to Critics and various Burundi Health Officials who have spoken on a Condition of Anonymity is escalating.

Burundi Government has been seriously criticized for playing down the Threat of this Virus and covering up the real Situation in the Country. On May 12,2020 the Government ‘World Health Organization’ Officials in Burundi as Persona Non Grata ordering them to leave the Country by May 15th without Reasons for their Expulsion. Photos of Thousands of Burundians crowded in Campaign Rallies without Face Masks or any form of CoronaVirus Precaution have raised Criticism to the Government for exposing its Citizenry to the deadly Virus. The President’s Spokesperson Jean Karerwa is on record recklessly playing down this real Threat by saying that Burundi has signed a special Pact with God and will hence be spared by this Pandemic.

Presidential Race

According to Burundi’s Electoral Commission CENI Chair Pierre Kazihise,5.1 Million Burundians have been registered to Vote across Burundi’s 18 Provinces. Described as the first competitive Election since 1993; the Race for the top Job shall be a tough Test on Democracy in a Turbulent Nation without the Incumbent President Nkurunziza on the Ballot. The Test is further exacerbated by lack of Free Independent Media in Burundi and lack of Independent International Observers due to Corona Virus Restrictions.The Government also blocked accesss to all Social Media Channels at the Dawn of Election Day.The run-up to Today’s Election has also been marred by Significant Violence and Intimidation with 67 documented Killings,Arbitrary Arrests and Torture according to ‘Ligue Iteka Human Rights Watch Group’ Report.

President Nkurunziza has chosen his Loyalist, retired Army General also a former Hutu Rebel Militant 52-Years old General Evariste Ndayishimiye to succeed him via the ruling CNDD-FDD Party. Gen.Ndayishimiye has previously served  as Burundi’s Security Minister and Head of Military Affairs in Nkurunziza’s Office. Another Key Candidate in this Race is Nkurunziza’s longtime Rival 56-Years old Agathon Rwasa who led Presidential Elections Boycott in 2010 and 2015 leading to Violent Confrontations with Nkurunziza Regime forcing him to hide or flee to Exile on several Occasions. Mr.Rwasa also a former FNL Hutu Rebel Leader is now the Leader of CNL-main Opposition Party and the Deputy Chair in Parliament. Another key Candidate is 69-Years old former President Domitien Ndayizeye vying under KIRA-Burundi Coalition.

The other Candidates are;

  • 66-Years old Mr.Leonce Ngendakumana via FRODEBU Party
  • 55-Years old former Vice President under Nkurunziza’s Government Gaston Sindimwo via UPRONA Party
  • 48-Years old Francis Rohero via the Orange Movement
  • 46-Years old Cleric and Social Activist Dieudonne Nahimana via the New Generation Movement

President Nkurunziza shall however remain in Office until August 2020 since he took Oath on August 2015. He is expected to hand over to the Winner of this Presidential Election come August. On March 14,2020 Nkurunziza signed into Law a Bill that shall elevate him to become Burundi’s ‘Supreme Leader and Guide to Patriotism’; Whoever wins this Election shall be bound by this Law to consult him on Matters National Security and National Union.Critics say this is a Scheme to maintain his Grip and Manipulation of State Power even after leaving Office. The Bill also comes with a Reward of $530,000 and a deluxe Villa Mansion as Retirement Benefits from State Coffers.

May 20,2020 Presidential Election Results

The Results of this Election were released on May 25,2020 and to Nobody’s Surprise Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD Candidate Gen.Evariste Ndayishimiye was declared the Winner with 68.72%.His main Challenger,Burundi’s Long-time Opposition Leader Agathon Rwasa was announced Second with 24.19%.The other 5 Candidates were announced as follows;Gaston Sindimwo with 1.64%,Domitien Ndayizeye with 0.57%,Leonce Ngendakumana with 0.47%,Dieudonne Nahimana with 0.42% and Francis Rohero with 0.20%.

Mr.Rwasa vowed to Contest the Results within Burundi’s Judiciary and take the same to the East African Court of Justice should he fail to get Justice from Burundi Courts.”We have Won this Election and I can demonstrate.We won’t negotiate this;the People’s Choice must be respected”-Mr Rwasa said in an Interview.He also claimed CNDD-FDD Regime has ran Burundi’s Economy down while isolating the Country from the rest of the World. “The Results proclaimed by CENI are not Credible.They are Prefabricated from Massive Fraud.We have all the Evidence and the Real Figures of this Election.We will seek Justice”-Mr Rwasa’s CNL Party said in Statements.

Burundi Fact-file

  • Burundi is a Landlocked  Country in Central-East Africa; It is the 5th Smallest Country in Mainland Africa
  • With a GDP Per Capita of $217 according to 2018 World Bank Data; Ranking Position 185 out of 189 Countries in the World on the 2019 Human Development Index it is estimated that close to 80% of Burundi’s 11.8 Million People live below the International Poverty Line of $1.25 a Day.
  • In terms of GDP Burundi is still categorized in the list of ‘Low Income-Least Developed Countries’
  • Coffee is Burundi’s main Export accounting for close to 70% of its total Exports according to ‘Trading Economics’ followed by Tea and Cotton in Agricultural Exports. In Mining the Country also produces Tin, Tungsten, Gold and other Earth Minerals that earns the Country over 50% of its Foreign Exchange Earnings according to the Ministry of Mining July 2019 Statement.
  • Fresh Water Lake Tanganyika; the World’s Longest Lake found within Burundi, DRC, Tanzania and Zambia is among key Tourist Destination in Burundi.
  • The Hutus and Tutsis are the main Tribes in Burundi; Hutus make over 85% of the Population with the Tutsis making 14% while the smallest Tribe the ‘Twa’ makes about 1% according to Population Demographics.
  • Burundi’s National Language is Kirundi; French and English are the Official Languages.
  • Christianity is the dominant Religion although other Religions and Faiths are allowed in Burundi.
  • Burundian Franc-BIF is the Country’s Currency.
  • On January 2019, Burundi’s Parliament voted to have the Country’s Capital City moved from Bujumbura to the Ancient Urundi-Burundi Kingdom Capital in Gitega where according to President Nkurunziza is more Central within Burundi compared to Bujumbura. Bujumbura however remains the Country’s Economic/Commercial Capital.

(Photos Courtesy)

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