Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s re-debated decision in 2015 to be re-elected for a third term continued to characterize Burundi’s political and economic development. The level of violence has been muted, but deaths continue to be required. Human rights groups and international bodies reported continued persecution of the opposition. Police blamed criminal leagues for firearms and grenade attacks. Data on disappearances also appeared.
The International Monetary Fund estimated zero growth in the economy in 2017. The World Bank stated that the uncertain political situation and declining agricultural production in the wake of climate change and refugee flows played a part.
According to Countryaah.com, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in April condemned the ruling party CNDD-FDD’s youth branch Imbonerakure for its fierce outcome and threats of mass rape.
In May, the government appointed a committee to review the constitution. The chairman and his vice have close ties to the government party. At the end of October, the government adopted several proposed constitutional amendments, for example that the president should be allowed to sit for two seven-year terms. Nkurunziza could theoretically sit until 2034. It was unclear when a possible referendum would be held to approve the change.
The leader of the CNARED opposition coalition, Charles Nditije, said the proposal was the “impasse” for the Arusha process, and then aimed at the agreement concluded in 2000 and which contributed to an end to the protracted civil war.
Earlier in the year, for example, the UN chief António Guterres had warned in a report to the UN Security Council that the crisis could persist and spread regionally if Nkurunziza extends its mandate.
In May, the UN chief appointed Burkina Faso’s former president Michel Kafando a new UN envoy with the mission of supporting UN and regional peace efforts. Split in the UN Security Council has prevented greater pressure on Nkurunziza. China and the Russian Federation, among others, believe that the crisis is an internal matter. China’s Vice President Li Yuanchao visited the country in May. The US and the EU have previously imposed targeted sanctions on certain Burundian politicians and military commanders.
In July, Nkurunziza visited neighboring Tanzania. The visit abroad was his first since the failed coup attempt in 2015. He and the president of Tanzania invited the more than 240,000 refugees to return to Burundi.
In September, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to extend the mandate of a special panel that investigates suspected crimes in Burundi since 2015, despite strong opposition from Burundi. The three experts noted that the human rights situation had not improved and that the International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate suspected crimes against humanity.
Burundi became the first of the ICC’s 124 members to leave the Hague-based court on October 27. The ICC announced in November that it considered it entitled to investigate suspected crimes against humanity in Burundi between April 2015 and October 2017. A judge at the ICC said that at least 1,200 people are feared to have been killed and thousands of others imprisoned without cause or tortured.
The Burundi government announced that it would not cooperate with the ICC. The country received some backing from the presidents of neighboring countries Tanzania and Uganda, who said that the ICC’s decision hampered regional peace efforts.
The regional organization of the EAC, the former president of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, held several rounds of mediation, but failed to draw a close relationship between the ruling party and the opposition. However, the parties met during the summer in Helsinki. The meeting was organized by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari’s mediation institute CMI. The outcome has not been made public.
At the end of September, broadcasting rights were revoked for several radio and TV companies for three months, which also included websites on the Internet. Groups such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized the decision as a further restriction on freedom of expression.