As Burundi votes, violence mirrors 2015 election

By Crispin Adriaanse Time of article published May 20, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a US-registered non-profit organisation that reports on political violence and protest events in several regions across the world, has released data which shows that widespread violence in the build-up to Burundi’s 2020 election reflects that of the country's 2015 election, which was won by the ruling party unopposed.

The 2015 Burundi elections saw President Pierre Nkurunziza, of the ruling party National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), win his controversial third term as leader of the East African country. In the build-up to the election, political violence was rife, involving violent protests, hundreds being killed, tortured and raped, and hundreds of thousands going into exile.   

Al Jazeera reports that Nkurunziza’s participation in the 2015 elections was in breach of a peace deal that ended the civil war in 2005. Opposition parties subsequently boycotted the 2015 election, which allowed Nkurunziza to remain in power.

ACLED states that violence mainly stemmed from the youth wing of CNDD-FDD, the Imbonerakure. The Imbonerakure largely co-ordinate themselves with CNDD-FDD members, targeting civilians at opposition political meetings or gatherings, as well as targeting the homes or buildings of opposition members. In 2015, the violence carried out took place predominantly in Bujumbura Mairie. In fact, 60% of political disorder occurred in this region between March 21, 2014, and July 21, 2015, leading up to the elections.

The 2020 election build-up saw the same perpetrators, dramatically increased incidents and it was experienced in a completely dispersed geographical region than that of 2015.

CNDD-FDD’s main opposition party, National Congress for Freedom (CNL), was formed in February 2019, and an increase in violence has followed since. Between January 20, 2019, and May 16, 2020, political disorder was spread across Burundi’s northern region. Only 7% of incidents were recorded in  Bujumbura compared to 2015. 

Considering the time frame when attacks increased in 2019, ACLED believes that this suggests the CNL is perceived as a real threat. Both parties, CNL and CNDD-FDD, are led by former Hutu rebels who are competing for the same demographic of Burundi’s electorate.

A Burundian human rights group, Ligue Iteka, has documented 67 murders, 204 arrests, 15 incidents of gender-based violence and 23 cases of torture between January and March 2020.

African News Agency 

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