Tensions Reach Boiling Point in Burundi as Political Upheaval Continues


In a recent report, UN chief Zeid Ra-ad al-Hussein outlined rampant human rights violations in Burundi, according to Voice of America. Political violence has ensued since July 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term despite constitutional term limits. Burundi has a history of ethnic strife between Hutus and Tutsis.

The world community watches Burundi closely, fearing ethnic tension would rear its ugly head amidst political turmoil. Burundi, Rwanda, and the Congo region have all suffered through Hutu-Tutsi rivalries, resulting in genocide and full-scale war.

Former Burundian leaders and members of the world community have long expressed concerns of another ethnic struggle in Burundi, but the UN report has highlighted certain events indicating the role of ethnicity in the ongoing conflict. For instance, the UN has reported that former Tutsi members of the armed forces have been murdered in the past few weeks, and state-sponsored youth group Imbonerakure has been accused of inciting hatred and instigating violence.

Critics charge that the youth group is a militia, but officials maintain that the organization is not a militia and has no weaponry.

Moreover, leaders dismiss the UN’s claims entirely, claiming that the organization and other world powers seek to upend the president’s administration. With that, there is no denying that the government is the primary driver behind the violence, as mass graves have been discovered via satellite, and numerous political opponents have been assassinated.

Opposition leader Jean Minani and his faction are open to peace talks, but a resolution has failed thus far. Political opponents counter that the state is not willing to agree to terms because they are the primary aggressors, which also stems from hardline officials who are unwilling to compromise. The opposition, however, has taken part in the violence as well, with eyewitness reports claiming that rebels have launched attacks against soldiers using grenades.  

As both sides combat one another, over 250,000 Burundians have fled to next-door countries in search of refuge, and the economy remains in tatters. The hostile climate has scared away many investors and donors, and the crisis has contributed to a food shortage that will lead to rising food prices, notes IRIN.

Further, revenues have plummeted, and officials have reported that tax collection has tanked due to the political crisis. With that, the government claims that the economy will grow 3.5%as the security situation improves. Currently, such a view is an overly rosy estimate as peace talks make little headway, especially as the violence shows no sign of abating.