June 30, 2016
#Trailblazers: Rwanda
July 1, 2016

#PartyPolitics : Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country situated between Tanzania (in the south and east), Rwanda (to the north) and Democratic Republic of Congo (in the west) with an estimated total population of 10.742 million[1]. Burundi is a country with few resources and with an underdeveloped manufacturing industry. The country’s economy mostly depends on its agricultural sector, with tea and coffee being the country’s chief exports[2].

Since attaining independence in 1962 Burundi has been centre stage to political instability mainly emanating from succession politics, electoral related violence and ethnical intolerance. In the earliest stages of its independence the country underwent coups, genocides and the assassination of political leaders, including a grave decade long civil war from 1993 to 2005.

At independence the country attained the status of a constitutional monarchy which was abolished in 1966 with Michel Micombero (a Tutsi), who seized power and established a republic controlled predominantly by a Tutsi army and police force. In 1993 a pro-Hutu government under Melchior Ndadaye was elected to power, but assassinated four months later by Tutsi soldiers. Following which, the parliament appointed Cyprien Ntaryamira -a Hutu- as president in October, however he was allegedly assassinated by Tutsi’s, which resulted in the country plunging into an ethnic conflict, ending only in  2006 with the signing of the Arusha Agreement.

It is upon this agreement that the incumbent, Pierre Nkurunziza, appointed as president by the parliament of Burundi. However, in April 2015 President Pierre Nkurunziza violated the agreement by deciding to run for a third term which was against the constitution, which limited presidential terms to two. The current situation in the country is one of mass discontent seen through political violence causing more than 260 000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The opposition claims that understanding the Burundian crisis upon ethnical lines, upon which Nkurunziza wants the people to believe, is a misrepresentation of facts. Burundian officials often blame the Rwandan government of supporting the insurgency against Nkurunziza as the cause of the conflict. The opposition acknowledges that issues to do with unwarranted suppression of the opposition by the incumbent and the violation of the Arusha agreement are apparent and have caused the conflict; however authoritarian tendencies by Nkurunziza to firm his hold on power is only worsening the country’s fragile situation.

Major political parties in Burundi include; Front for democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-F.DD), Party for National Recovery (PARENA), Union for National Progress (UPRONA) and Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC). Systematic repression has been the single most important constraint on opposition party activities and organizations in Burundi[3].

In 2014, the government continually disrupted opposition party activities, obstructing meetings, banning demonstrations, and targeting party members with harassment, arrest, and violent attacks. Opposition leaders such as Agathon Rwasa and Jean Minani voiced their concerns against the current situation saying; “When the constitution is thrown away, is there any room for a democracy?”[4]. Civil liberty ratings continue to decline due to President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for an unconstitutional third term. Opposition party activities continue to be marginalised and met with violent government repression[5].

Independence Year


01 July 1962


Pierre Nkurunzinza


Capital City




$286 (2016


Burundi Franc (FBu) (BIF)
Population (2016)


11 544 497


Christian 67%, Indigenous beliefs 32%, Muslim 1%
Major Language (s) Kirundu, Swahili and French


Democracy Ranking


150 (2015)

Life Expectancy


Male 58, Female 61 (2015)[6]


[1] Freedom House Index. Freedom in the World Index 2015: Burundi. Available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/burundi. (Accessed on: 29 June 2016).

[2] n.1

[3] Tobolka, R. 2014. Political parties in Burundi: Identity and organizational cohesion. Available at: https://radimtobolka.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/burundi-identity-and-cohesion-1-51.pdf. (Accessed on: 29 June 2016).

[4] Aljazeera News. 2015. Burundi opposition leaders threaten to boycott vote. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/04/burundi-opposition-leaders-threaten-boycott-vote-150430091944606.html. (Accessed on: 29 June 2016).


[5] n.1

[6] n.1