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Burundi - Government

The Republic of Burundi is a constitutional, multi-party republic with an elected government. The 2005 constitution provides for an executive branch that reports to the president, a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary.

In March 2015 a government attempt to change the constitution has failed to gain enough parliamentary support. Opposition parties boycotted the session as they felt the amendments would have undermined reconciliation agreements that ended the country's long ethnic-based civil war in which some 300,000 people died. The government wanted to create a post of prime minister and reduce the role of the senate in overseeing the ethnic balance in state institutions but it fell one vote short of the required 80% majority.

Burundi was a unified, independent kingdom, occupying the central highlands, at the time of the German conquest in 1893. The royal caste, the Baganwa, was placed above both the Hutus and Tutsis and claimed to have a mixed ancestry. Under the King and other Baganwa, both Hutus and Tutsis exercised positions of power and prestige. There is no record of ethnic massacres from the pre-colonial period. Judicial authority was exercised by the King himself, by the local chiefs appointed by him, and by wise men designated by consensus on each hill, the Bashinganhaye.

During German colonial dominance, which ended in 1916, and during the Belgian mandate that followed, the country was governed formally through the King (indirect rule). In the last years of the mandate the King had become a mere figurehead. Colonial administration generally favored the Tutsis at the expense of the Hutus, accentuating the social and economic differences between them. The Belgians administered Burundi together with Rwanda from Burumbura. Burundians and Rwandese were a minority of the population of Bujumbura until independence.

A transitional constitution was adopted October 18, 2001. National and regional mediation efforts failed to reach a compromise on post-transition power-sharing arrangements between the predominantly Hutu and Tutsi political parties, and in September 2004 over two-thirds of the parliament--despite a boycott by the Tutsi parties--approved a post-transition constitution. The Arusha Peace Agreement called for local and national elections to be held before the conclusion of the transitional period on October 31, 2004.

The parliament adopted a post-transition constitution on September 17, 2004, which was approved in a nationwide referendum held February 28, 2005. On October 20, 2004, a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate adopted a previously approved draft constitution as an interim constitution that provides for an extension of transitional institutions until elections are held. On February 28, 2005, Burundians overwhelmingly approved a post-transitional constitution in a popular referendum, setting the stage for local and national elections.

Executive--President, First Vice President in charge of political and administrative affairs, Second Vice President in charge of social and economic affairs, 26-member Council of Ministers.

The Legislative branch is a 100-member directly elected National Assembly plus additional deputies appointed as necessary (currently 18 appointed) to ensure an ethnic and gender composition of 60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi, 30% female, and 3 Batwa members. A 54-member Senate (3 seats reserved for former presidents; 3 seats reserved for the ethnic Twa minority; 2 Senators, one Hutu and one Tutsi, from each of the 16 provinces plus the city of Bujumbura appointed by an electoral college comprised of members of locally elected communal and provincial councils; 14 Senators appointed by the president according to the president's own criteria. Women must comprise 30% of the Senate.)

Judicial branch includes constitutional and subsidiary courts. By the 1990s the Burundian judiciary and police were overwhelmingly unbalanced in favor of Tutsis, as is the entire legal profession. It is a fact that Burundian criminal law and criminal procedures needed to be reformed. It is a fact that judges and prosecutors lacked even the most essential material resources to accomplish their task.

Administrative subdivisions: 17 provinces including Bujumbura, 117 communes. Each province is divided into communes, under an "Administrateur communal", and each zone into "collines", under a "chef de colline". The administrative colline ("colline de recensement"), despite the name, does not necessarily correspond to a geographical hill. A colline may include two or more hills, which are then known as "sous-collines", or large proportions of level valley.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2016 17:16:56 ZULU