Burundi. In June, a disputed media law was introduced, despite criticism from media organizations, the opposition and donors such as the UN. According to Countryaah, the law restricts reporting on issues that may threaten national security, public order or the economy. Journalists may also be forced to state their sources.
Shortly after the law came into force, three journalists were arrested on suspicion of such crimes. Freedom of the press has previously been questioned. A well-known case is radio journalist Hassan Ruvakuki, who in June 2012 was sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorist offenses. By the end of 2011, Ruvakuki had visited Tanzania and interviewed members of an armed Burundian opposition group. In January, his sentence was reduced to three years and he was released in March for health reasons.
In February, the UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN operation in Burundi, BNUB. It will build institutions and strengthen human rights and political dialogue until the elections in 2015. Burundi announced in November that it wanted to end the UN operation as early as 2014.
The political tensions are close to the surface. Five people were seriously injured in clashes in October between supporters of the opposition party MSD (Movement for Security and Democracy) and the government party CNDDFND’s youth association, Imbonerakure, in a town north of the capital Bujumbura. Imbonerakure is increasingly accused of harassing opponents.
During the year, several opposition politicians who boycotted the disputed presidential elections in 2010 returned and then went into exile. Last in line was Agathon Rwasa, ex-leader of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), who returned in August. Prosecutors announced in September that they were investigating Rwasa for a 2004 massacre of Congolese refugees, which he denies.
Burundi, torn apart by thirteen years of civil war within the largest and longest clash between the Hutu majority ethnic group and the Tutsi minority until 2005, is today at a crossroads: on the one hand the consolidation of democratic institutions and the regional integration within the East African Community (Eac); on the other hand, the risk that a confused political phase, accompanied by popular discontent, will once again give way to violence. See DIGOPAUL for map and location of Burundi.
President Pierre Nkurunziza, a member of the Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces de la Défense de la Démocratie (platform deriving from a former Hutu rebel formation), has been leading the country since the 2005 elections., Nkurunziza was re-elected for another five years. However, opposition candidates boycotted the elections, failing to recognize the outcome. In March 2013, under the auspices of the UN, the government and main opposition parties agreed to meet, in order to establish a common path of reconciliation. Following this meeting, two of the three leaders of the main opposition parties returned to the country, after leaving it fearing for their safety. Furthermore, Agathon Rwasa, leader of the Fln (Forces Nationales de Libération), main pro-Hutu extra-parliamentary opposition movement, ended exile in a secret location where he had been since before the 2010 elections. Despite this, the ruling by which the Constitutional Court authorized Nkurunziza to reapply has been severely contested by opposition, which accused the president of intimidating the judges. The opposition therefore decided to boycott the July 2015 elections, which saw the incumbent president obtain a third consecutive term. Political tension remains high, with widespread protests by opposition parties, repeatedly suppressed with violence by the government. The disturbing parallels with the events in Rwanda in 1994 make fears of the worst for the country’s future,
Burundi is one of the most densely populated and poorest states in the world, with the lowest per capita GDP ever. Over 80% of the population lives below the poverty line and the country is in a deficit situation both on a commercial and fiscal level, consequently depending on international aid (which represents an exaggerated portion of the budget). The aftermath of the civil war, overpopulation and soil erosion force potentially self-sufficient Burundi to rely heavily on imports, which in 2015 amounted to nearly eight times the total exports. A lifeline for the economy could be mineral resources (oil, nickel and copper). However, the precarious internal situation and the distance from the sea discouraged foreign investors. The high economic vulnerability is determined by the dependence on coffee exports and rampant corruption.
On the regional level, Burundi has intense political and economic ties with its neighbors in the Great Lakes region, strengthened by the common participation in the EAC. However, in August 2013, relations with Tanzania broke down following the expulsion of 25,000 Burundian refugees from the country, many of them with regular Tanzanian citizenship. Burundi is a member of the African Union and in recent years is continuing to increase the number of its troops sent on peacekeeping missions, despite the numerous losses suffered in Somali territory within Amisom.