Burundi vor den Wahlen: Kontinuität statt Wandel
Number: 4 | 05/2020 | ISSN: 1862-3603
Despite confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Burundi, the government announced that it plans to hold its upcoming elections as scheduled, presumably picking a new president on 20 May 2020. President Pierre Nkurunziza is not standing for re-election. Instead, the ruling CNDD-FDD party has named General Evariste Ndayishimiye as its candidate – and offers this as a sign of the country’s democratisation. Many observers, however, doubt that Ndayishimiye can credibly represent change, as he belongs to the party’s elite.
According to the latest report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, the elections pose a major risk to the country. In 2015 Nkurunziza’s controversial third term in office plunged the country into a political, economic, and social crisis.
Burundi is on the path towards becoming a one-party state. In the run-up to the elections, the regime – especially its youth militia, the Imbonerakure – has been cracking down on supporters of the main opposition party, the Congrès National pour la Liberté (National Congress for Freedom, CNL).
Civil and political rights are being systematically restricted. The Burundian National Media Council routinely censors or dissolves independent media outlets. International and domestic NGOs face severe constraints, and it is impossible for many exiled Burundians to return.
Despite the expected change of head of state, Burundi’s current political development is characterised by continuity. Nonetheless, Ndayishimiye’s more conciliatory rhetoric since his nomination may help re-establish a dialogue with the international community.
The leverage of external actors to address the situation is limited. Direct cooperation with the government would undermine demands for democracy and human rights. Yet, complete disengagement is also counterproductive. Instead, German and European policymakers should strive to support both civil society and the democratic opposition, along with offering humanitarian assistance. A coherent EU strategy is essential in this regard.
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