January 2019

Burundi continues to be politically divided and is facing international isolation after months of unrest. The troubles began when President Pierre Nkurunziza (who has been in power since 2005) sought a third five-year term in office, in 2015 – a move that was viewed by commentators and political opponents as a power grab by him and his party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). Nkurunziza won the subsequent election but the aftermath was marred by violent clashes and a failed coup. In 2018, the situation intensified through a referendum which was held to extend the presidential term of office. This meant Nkurunziza could remain in power into the 2030s. It also stated that there would be shifts in a number of powers away from the government to the president and revision of ethnic quotas.

The situation in Burundi shows how the power-sharing institutions, established by the Arusha Accords, moved the country out of a bloody conflict that lasted from 1993 to 2005, may collapse. The violence could lead to dire economic conditions and demonstrate the failure of the international community to provide needed assistance.

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