Will Arusha resolve Burundi’s deadly crisis?

Wednesday November 29 2017


        Arusha. On Monday, the fourth round of Arusha talks aimed at finding a way out of the Burundian crisis started off, with some of the protagonists expressing hope that a lasting will be found.

The meeting has brought together President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government and opposition representatives in Arusha from November 27 to December 8.

East African leaders will then meet in January to assess the outcome of the talks in Arusha. At least 120 people – parties and political actors, civil societies and religious denominations – have been invited to the talks.

The dialogue had broken down. But diplomatic sources already speak of the “last session planned in Arusha” also bringing together former presidents and vice presidents, women and the youth.

Burundian actors are hopeful that this time round, things would work out. “There would be fruitful interactions among all stakeholders and we would therefore reach a political consensus that could allow us to move forward,” Evariste Ngayimpenda, a political opponent and participant in the 4th round of peace talks, told Iwacu News.

“I think this session is inclusive despite the grievances and criticisms over the invitations. The best way is to participate and express them in the presence of others as the facilitator in the Inter-Burundian dialogue has previously met the stakeholders separately.” Early this month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a full probe into alleged crimes committed during the crisis.

Between 500 and 2,000 people have been killed, according to different sources, and more than 400,000 people displaced from their homes.

Here is a summary of key developments in the crisis in the central African country.

Demonstrations start

April 25, 2015: Nkurunziza is declared candidate for a third term by the ruling CNDD-FDD party. The following day thousands of protesters demonstrate in the capital, the start of six weeks of almost daily rallies that meet a fierce response from police. The opposition maintains Nkurunziza’s move is unconstitutional and violates a peace deal that ended a 1993-2006 civil war.

Failed coup

May 13, 2015: A top Burundian general, Godefroid Niyombare, announces the overthrow of Nkurunziza, hours after the president flies to neighbouring Tanzania for talks with regional leaders on ending the crisis. The coup leaders surrender two days later and Nkurunziza returns.


June 28, 2015: Parliament head Pie Ntavyohanyuma says he has fled to Belgium, denouncing the president’s “illegal” third term bid. He joins a long list of opposition leaders, journalists, members of civil society, and even disillusioned members of the ruling party who have chosen exile.

Nkurunziza re-elected

July 21, 2015: Nkurunziza is re-elected as expected in a vote boycotted by the opposition.

August 2, 2015: General Adolphe Nshimirimana, widely seen as the nation’s de-facto internal security chief and considered the regime’s number two, is killed in a rocket attack.

August 3: Human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, who had publicly opposed Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, is wounded by gunfire.

August 15: Colonel Jean Bikomagu, the former head of Burundi’s army during a 13-year civil war, is assassinated.

December 11: At least 87 people are killed in coordinated attacks by unidentified gunmen on three military sites that trigger a fierce riposte from the security forces.

‘Risk of genocide’

July 29, 2016: UN Security Council agrees to deploy up to 228 UN police in Burundi, but in early August the government in capital Bujumbura rejects the resolution.

September 20: UN investigators say Burundi’s government is behind systematic human rights violations, warning of the looming risk of “genocide”.

October 27: Burundi says it is leaving the ICC.

In April, The Hague-based body had opened a preliminary examination into allegations including murder and torture.

December 30: Nkurunziza hints he might seek a fourth term in office in 2020 “if the people request it”.

‘Rape calls’

January 19, 2017: Human Rights Watch says young men belonging to Burundi’s ruling party are waging brutal attacks on perceived opponents.

April 18: UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein says the youth wing is repeatedly calling for the rape and murder of opposition supporters.

Towards a probe

September 4, 2017: UN calls for the opening of an ICC probe into crimes against humanity in Burundi.

September 29: UN decides to extend the mission of an international probe into atrocities there, overriding strong opposition from the government.

October 26: Government approves changes to the constitution that could pave the way to a potential 14-year extension in Nkurunziza’s stay in office.

October 27: Burundi’s threat to leave the ICC takes effect. November 9: ICC reveals that it decided on October 25 to launch a probe into crimes committed from April 26 2015 to October 26 2017. The court “retains jurisdiction” in this area, regardless of Burundi’s withdrawal. (Political Platform reporter and AFP)