FAST Update Burundi: Trends in conflict and cooperation Apr - May 2007

Report
from Swiss Peace Foundation
Published on 31 May 2007


Political

During the period under review the political situation in Burundi remained tense (see graph). The government had to maneuver around the machinations of the CNDD-FDD's ex-President Hussein Radjabu, growing splits within and between the ruling party and the opposition, and the complexities of its power-sharing formula.



For the past two months Radjabu has been under surveillance and was questioned twice by the state prosecutor. On 27 April, parliament stripped him of his immunity and he was arrested on charges of planning a rebellion and distributing arms to demobilized soldiers. Radjabu continues to enjoy the loyalty of his former partisans, although they are exposed to harassment and discrimination. Around 200 persons demonstrated outside the High Court on 9 May when he appeared before the state prosecutor. The police forcefully dispersed the demonstration hurting at least two people. On 18 May, police temporarily imprisoned Radjabu's lawyer for objecting to the confiscation of the latter's cars. On 30 May, 68 CNDD-FDD members withdrew their party membership because they felt persecuted for not having rallied behind Radjabu's dismissal at the extraordinary congress in Ngozi on 7 February. Once the plot by Radjabu was foiled, the CNDD-FDD's powerful "axe Gitega" under the leadership of Senate President Gervais Rufyikiri also came under suspicion of planning to depose the head of state. This was related to a letter dated 13 March in which Rufyikiri had censured President Nkurunziza for violating the constitution. However, on 12 April, at a hastily called press conference Rufyikiri assured Nkurunziza of his absolute loyalty.

Like the ruling CNDD-FDD, the opposition UPRONA is affected by growing internal rifts. An initiative to reunify the party under the ideology of Prince Louis Rwagasore may lead to the formation of a third wing because of resistance from the two factions headed by Alois Rubuka and Gabriel Sinarinzi. On 20 April, the reunification proponents (including Professor Evariste Ngayimpenda) tried to organize a press conference against the will of Rubuka and Sinarinzi. The police intervened so the meeting was held secretly.

Also of importance are the struggle of the FRODEBU and the UPRONA for additional seats in the government and the disagreements between the CNDD-FDD and the UPRONA on how to deal with the past abuses of human rights. All these issues, to a greater or lesser extent, affected the National Assembly's debates about the re-establishment of the gender balance, which had been disturbed since the replacement on 16 March of its president Immaculée Nahayo by Pie Ntavyohanyuma, both former allies of Radjabu. Due to the one-month delay in reaching an agreement, the CNDD-FDD spokesman Karenga Ramadhan and Burundi's Observatory for the Fight against Corruption accused parliament of embezzling public funds.

Nonetheless, with the election of Alice Nzomukunda on 25 April to the first Vice-President of the National Assembly, one of the earliest and strongest critics of the abuses of Nkurunziza's regime under the influence of Radjabu re-entered Burundi's political arena. Moreover, she is the first representative of the CNDD-FDD who is well accepted by the opposition, which had strongly supported her nomination. Nzomukunda's predecessor, Onésime Nduwimana, an ally of the Gitega faction who initially refused to resign or leave his post, was appointed to head Burundi's insurance company SOCABU and was thus finally removed from the government.