Burundi’s post-conflict constitution provides a robust array of formal checks to personal rule. Article 164 mandates a 60-40 Hutu-Tutsi split in National Assembly and 50-50 split in the Senate in order to ensure that the majority Hutu (85%) do not violate the rights of the minority Tutsi (14%). The Batwa (1%) are also guaranteed representation in Parliament through special nomination. Burundi also has a proportional representation (PR) system with a closed list that requires political parties to nominate no more than two thirds of candidates from the same ethnic group. Article 257 of the constitution reinforces the principle of ethnic balance by mandating a 50-50 split in the military. Furthermore, according to Article 300 any amendment to the constitution requires an 80% super-majority in the National Assembly and two thirds of the Senate (this is why Nkurunziza failed in an attempt to amend the constitution in early 2014).
So how did Nkurunziza manage to overcome all these formal institutional checks on his power and engineer a technical third term in office? For answers see here.
Hint: elite consensus on acceptable bounds of political behavior matters a great deal. Looking back, the framers of the Burundian constitution probably should have focused on intra-Hutu balance of power as much as they did on the Hutu-Tutsi balance. Nkurunziza succeeded because not enough Hutu elites (within his own divided party) were willing to punish his blatant contravention of term limits on a questionable technicality. Perhaps they will stand up to him if he tries again in 2020.
I respect all that Paul Kagame has done for Rwanda. Under his leadership the country appears to have survived the 1994 catastrophe, emerging as the least corrupt and one of the fastest growing economies in the region. But like most autocrats, Mr. Kagame has had his dark side. A damning UN report apparently documents atrocities committed by Rwandan troops in eastern Congo. The just concluded general election in the mountainous central African nation has also exposed the former rebel’s anti-democratic tendencies and intolerance of any form of opposition. It is slowly emerging that not even the much praised and disciplined Mr. Kagame is immune to the most common disease afflicting most autocrats: believing that they are God’s gift to their people and therefore have the right to do whatever they want with their power.
I have not read the entire UN report but for more on it check out Texas in Africa.
Negotiators from the government and rebel movements in Eastern DRC have indicated that a deal could be made soon to end a war that has led to the loss of thousands of lives and displacement of more than 450, 000. General Nkunda, the leader of the main rebel movement in the East of this vast central African nation seems to have finally gave up his war of rebellion against Kinshasa which he claims is aimed at defending his Tutsi people from Hutu rebels from Rwanda.
The European Union and the United States have pledged to ensure that the deal goes through unhindered and have also promised to provide up to 150 million dollars to help in the reconstruction effort. Most of the regions infrastructure has been destroyed by years of conflict going back to the mid 90s during the Kabila rebellion.
This is welcome news coming from a region that has in recent past seen the flaring of tensions in Kenya, the former oasis of peace and stability. Stability in the DRC is vital for the entire region as this single nation has about 60 million people – a size-able market for the other countries’ struggling economies.
It is my hope that the peace agreement is comprehensive enough to settle the dispute once and for all so that Congolese can for once concentrate on the project of economic development and modernisation.