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bickering that had characterised the deal- ings between the political elites during the past five years. All the same, many seemed happy with the outcomes. Te pre-electoral climate did involve


tensions, with politically motivated vio- lence and intimidation, but the govern- ment appeared susceptible to pressure to improve the situation. And so the coun- try eagerly prepared for its second post- transitional elections with assistance from a vibrant civil society, a largely independ- ent media and, of course, the international community, which was determined to prove that Burundi’s success story con- tinued. Ten the provisional results of the


first poll were announced. Tey point- ed at an overwhelming victory for the CNDD-FDD, whilst other parties col- lectively only garnered about 30% of the votes. Completely caught off-guard, the opposition parties immediately rejected the results, alleging that massive fraud and irregularities had characterised the poll. Tey demanded nothing less than a re-run. Te opposition counted strongly on the


backing of the international community, which had often criticised the CNDD- FDD. Instead, the opposition received very little understanding from diplomats after the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU-EOM), as well as a local civil society group, declared that the polls had met international standards, despite cer- tain challenges. Several diplomats used the opportunity to practise their peacemaking skills. But they achieved little. The situation deteriorated with an


increase in violent incidents, especially attacks with grenades, which are eas- ily available in Burundi, and cheap to procure. In response, the government arrested numerous opposition members and generally restricted the opposition’s activities. By August, several opposition leaders had fled the country out of fear of arrest. Tis included Agathon Rwasa of the FNL, who was later voted out as the party’s leader during a controversial con- gress organised by several party members who had disagreed with the continuation of the boycott. Rumours of a renewed rebellion were


rife. Most observers would agree that the opposition mistakenly led itself to miss out on a decent representation in Burundi’s governance institutions. Now these politi-


cal parties would have limited options to influence Burundi’s political dispensation. One opposition leader has not ruled


out taking up arms as a last resort. Un- surprisingly, President Nkurunziza has adopted a reconciliatory tone. During a speech marking the inauguration of the new government, Nkurunziza pledged that his administration would consult those who decided to leave the electoral process. Some have heavily criticised the


CNDD-FDD government for arresting people and imposing restrictions on them. Te government, on the other hand, has laid the blame at the door of the oppo- sition. In November last year, a senior CNDD-FDD official reportedly stated: “We are in a democracy. Is democracy a matter of chasing people away or of people fleeing democracy? Te shock of losing an election can be confusing to some people. What we cannot understand is for a loser to start attacks, killings, etc.” Reports surfaced accusing the police of


extrajudicial killings and torturing opposi- tion supporters. Denying the accusations, a police spokesman said “the police are human beings, they are not angels. When policemen are involved in violence against the people, these are isolated cases, it is not the mission of the police.” Te UN has scaled down its peacekeep-


ing mission in the country as “the situation has sufficiently progressed”. Te signs of renewed rebellion have been brushed off by the government as activities by armed bandits, although more recently it stated that it was looking into the UN Group of Experts report. Aware of the tremendous challenges


facing the country, the government is set to move on. President Nkurunziza was recently elected chairman of the East Af- rican Community and has signed several bi- and multilateral aid deals in the hope of accelerating economic development. Tis would hopefully contribute to the sustainable reintegration of hundreds of thousands of returnees as well as former combatants and job creation in general. Te government also recently released


a long overdue report following country- wide consultations on the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms. Still, whilst widespread violence did not en- velop the country during the elections, as feared by some, certain challenges are likely to persist that may eventually derail


Opposite: Counting votes in the May 2010 legislative elections. Above: President Pierre Nkurunziza, the sole candidate in the presidential race after the opposition boycotted the poll


the progress achieved thus far. Political space is not a bargaining tool.


It needs to be present to keep the door open for those who genuinely wish to con- tribute to democracy in Burundi. Tose who do not should refrain from instigating violence. Given Burundi’s history, size and high population density, it is fairly easy to create an atmosphere of insecurity, which may lead to further violence. Challenges around political incum-


bency have dominated discussions on good governance in Africa, as triggered by events in Zimbabwe, Kenya and more recently Côte d’Ivoire. Te CNDD-FDD


should guard against falling into the trap of “incumbency advantage”. In turn, re- cent events in Burundi also provide useful lessons with regard to opposition politics and political parties in general. Te importance of addressing political


parties’ weaknesses should not be under- estimated. It would allow aspiring leaders to effectively present political alternatives. It could also prevent greater challenges during the elections in 2015. Not having to be preoccupied with renewed armed oppositions would hopefully contribute to the government’s ability to move from daily crisis management to instead under- taking long-term and more sustainable efforts.


New African March 2011 | 35


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