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Get to know: Burundi Referendum

#Get to Know Burundi :BurundiReferendum

About Burundi

Burundi is an East-Central African country located on the South of the Equator. The vast majority of Burundi’s population is Hutu, traditionally, they are a farming people. Political power has long rested with the Tutsi minority, which historically has controlled the army and most of the economy, particularly the lucrative international export of coffee. Few cultural differences exist between the two ethnic groups; both groups speak Rundi (Kirundi). The differences have been a point to exploitation by one tribe to consolidate power. This still continues today as the incumbent seeks to extend presidential term limits.

Economic Indicators


GDP (purchasing power parity):



GDP – per capita (PPP):


GDP – real growth rate:
$7.849 billion (2016 est.)


$7.831 billion (2015 est.)


$8.066 billion (2014 est.)


note: data are in 2016 dollars

country comparison to the world: 163

$3.138 billion (2016 est.)


$800 (2016 est.)


$800 (2015 est.)


$900 (2014 est.)


note: data are in 2016 dollars

country comparison to the world: 227


-1% (2016 est.)


-4% (2015 est.)


4.5% (2014 est.)


country comparison to the world: 196[1]


Why the 2018 Referendum?


Burundians are being asked to vote yes or no to a proposal to extend the president’s term from five years to seven. This would allow Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, to rule for another 14 years when his term expires in 2020. This is raising fears of deeper political repression and ethnic conflict in the Great Lakes nation only a generation after the Rwandan genocide.

Opposition politicians and rights groups have cited numerous examples of repression, from arrests of dissidents, to the breaking up of “no” rallies, to death threats issued by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD.



Profile of President Piere Nkurunziza


Pierre Nkurunziza is a former Hutu rebel leader. He became the first president to be chosen in democratic elections since the start of Burundi’s civil war in 1994.

His election by parliamentarians in 2005 was one of the final steps in a peace process intended to end years of fighting between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-controlled army.

But since his re-election in 2010, his tenure has been marked by accusations of growing authoritarianism, including attacks and pressure on opposition parties and the media.

The June 2010 presidential polls were boycotted by the opposition, which complained of fraud in the earlier local elections.

His re-election to a third term in 2015 proved even more controversial, as Burundi’s constitution limits presidents to a maximum of two terms in office.

The constitutional court ruled in favour of his argument that his first term does not count, as he was elected by parliament and not by the entire electorate, and was thus eligible to stand again.

Since 2015, rebel forces have increased attacks on government positions, and President Nkurunziza has reacted angrily to United Nations and African Union calls for the deployment of peacekeepers.

Born in 1964 in Ngozi province, Pierre Nkurunziza trained as a sports teacher. His father, a former MP, was killed in ethnic violence in 1972.

He joined the Hutu rebellion in 1995 and rose through the ranks to become head of the Forces for Defence of Democracy (FDD) in 2001. He sustained a serious mortar injury during the conflict. The married father of five is a born-again Christian[2].



[1]Moodys Analystics. Burundi Economic Indicators. Available at: https://www.economy.com/burundi/indicators#ECONOMY. Accessed: 16 May 2018.

[2]BBC News. President Pierre Nkurunziza. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13085065. Accessed: 16 May 2018.