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Political Parties

In preindependence years the ethnic Hutu made up approxiiuately 88 percent of the population, and the pygmold Twa less than 1 percent. The Tutsi, accounting for about 16 percent, still held most of their traditional authority and influence in the social and political structure.

Old rivalries and feuds, usually suppressed during the periods of German and Belgian control, were diverted into political maneuvering during the 1950's, and more than 15 political parties demanded recognition. Two of these dominated the field by the end of 1960 - the National Unity and Progress Party (Unite et progres national - TUPRONA) and the Christian Democratic Party (Parti democrate Chretien - PDC).

As the end of the mandate approached, Prince Louis Rwagasore, the King's eldest son, founded a multiethnic political party, the National Unity and Progress Party ("Union pour le progrés national"), UPRONA, along the lines of other African national liberation movements. The Belgian authorities promoted a competing, docile party, the "Parti démocratique chrétien", PDC, led by members of a rival branch of the royal family. In the national elections that were to lead to independence, UPRONA won an overwhelming victory. Shortly afterwards, Prince Rwagasore was assassinated at the instigation of PDC leaders. An UPRONA Tutsi Prime Minister, André Muhirwa, headed the first independent Government of Burundi, which became a constitutional monarchy.

Tutsi-Hutu factionalism continued when the nation became fully independent as a constitutional monarchy on July 1, 1962.

There were 42 registered political parties in 2013, the vast majority based on family, clan, or region and representing localized interests. Only six parties fielded candidates in all 17 provinces and 129 communes in the May 2010 communal elections. In 2011 the National Assembly mandated all parties reregister by the end of 2011.

According to the new law, to qualify for public campaign funding and compete in the 2015 legislative and presidential elections, parties must be “nationally based” (ethnically and regionally diverse) and demonstrate in writing that they are organized and have membership in all provinces. A provision that all party presidents must reside in the country was rejected by the coalition of political parties that boycotted the 2010 elections, because the presidents of three of the parties in the coalition remained in self-imposed exile abroad.

According to the law, to qualify for public campaign funding and compete in the 2015 legislative and presidential elections, parties must be “nationally based” (ethnically and regionally diverse) and demonstrate in writing that they are organized and have membership in all provinces. As of November the Ministry of Interior recognized 38 political parties. Three other parties--FNL (Forces for National Liberation)-Rwasa, UPRONA-Nditije, and UPD (Union for Peace and Development)-Mugwengezo--had members but were not officially recognized. In 2013 there were 42 registered political parties, the vast majority based on family, clan, or region and representing localized interests.

The increasingly involvement of the Ministry of Interior in opposition party leadership and management kept political parties weak and fractured. In March 2013 the ruling party and opposition met during a UN-backed workshop and agreed on a roadmap for the 2015 elections as well as the adoption of an electoral code. After the meetings ended, the government pulled back from its commitments, stating the law and constitution allow only legally constituted political parties, coalitions of political parties, and independent candidates to run for office, and that unrecognized leaders of parties and political actors not associated with a party could play no role in the political process. This stance effectively disenfranchised opposition party wings and prevented their leaders from developing platforms and running campaigns in the months before the 2015 elections.

The UPRONA party, for example, was officially led by Concilie Nibigira, but the vast majority of UPRONA’s members were loyal to Charles Nditije, whom the government did not recognize as the party leader. When the majority wing of UPRONA attempted to legitimate the leadership of Nditije by a meeting and vote of the Central Committee, the Ministry of Interior prevented the meeting from taking place, claiming the Central Committee did not have permission to use UPRONA’s party headquarters. The government-recognized wing expelled Nditije from UPRONA, and Nditije lost his legal ability to work in politics.

The CNDD (the National Council for the Defense of Democracy, Hutu), FRODEBU (the Front for Democracy in Burundi, predominantly Hutu with some Tutsi membership), and UPRONA (the National Unity and Progress Party, predominantly Tutsi with some Hutu membership) are national, mainstream parties. Other Tutsi and Hutu opposition parties and groups include, among others, PARENA (the Party for National Redress, Tutsi), ABASA (the Burundi African Alliance for the Salvation, Tutsi), PRP (the People's Reconciliation Party, Tutsi), PALIPEHUTU (the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People, Hutu) and FROLINA/FAP (the Front for the National Liberation of Burundi/Popular Armed Forces, Hutu).

National, Mainstream Parties

Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie - Forces pour la Defense de la Democratie (CNDD-FDD)

  • Ruling Party
  • Predominantly Hutu; founded in 1994 as a rebel movement.
  • CNDD-FDD signed a cease-fire agreement with the government of Burundi in December 2002 and registered as a political party in January 2005.
  • 2005 Elections: CNDD-FDD won 67.3% of the Senate and 54.2% of the National Assembly. It also won the presidency when the parliament elected Pierre Nkurunziza to the position.
  • 2010 Elections: President Nkurunziza was CNDD-FDD's 2010 presidential candidate. Nkurunziza was the only political figure with a viable chance of wining, in part due to CNDD-FDD's well-oiled political machine and in part because no other party's presidential candidate has the popularity or name recognition of Nkurunziza.
  • CNDD-FDD popularity as a party, while still high compared to other parties, had waned in many provinces, primarily due to the population's disappointment in CNDD-FDD's unfulfilled political promises.

    Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU)

  • Predominantly Hutu.
  • 2005 Elections: In 2005, FRODEBU won 14.2% of the Senate and 25.4% of the National Assembly.
  • 2010 Elections: FRODEBU's presidential candidate was former President of Burundi Domitien Ndayizeye. FRODEBU is a solid member of the opposition political scene, but was not strong enough alone to unseat CNDD-FDD. Political experts stated that FRODEBU needed a coalition in order to gain enough votes to win the presidency as well as a significant number of seats in parliament.

    Union for National Progress (UPRONA)

  • Traditionally identified as the Tutsi party.
  • UPRONA has a breakaway wing of the same name. The hard-line faction split in opposition to the 2000 Arusha Accords, asserting that no negotiations should occur with those who committed genocide against Tutsis. The GoB recognizes the original UPRONA party, not the splinter wing.
  • On 02 August 2009, UPRONA held a party congress to elect new leaders and further reunification efforts. Bonaventure Niyoyankana (baby brother of the Minister of Defense), a Tutsi from the GoB recognized wing, was elected president and Concilie Nibigira, a Hutu of the splinter wing, was elected the party's vice president. Political observers considered this internal election a significant step toward reunification as well as a good example of how parties can conduct fair and peaceful internal elections.
  • 2005 Elections: In 2005, UPRONA won 6.1% of the Senate and 12.7% of the National Assembly.
  • 2010 Elections: Observers did not expect the party to be competitive for the presidency. As a mostly Tutsi party in a majority-Hutu country, competing with strong Hutu-dominated parties, UPRONA had no real chance of winning a majority vote for the presidential seat.

    Other Parties

    Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie (CNDD)

  • Predominantly Hutu, but seems to desire an ethnicity-free identity.
  • After being dismissed from CNDD-FDD in 1998, party founder Leonard Nyangoma continued to claim the name "CNDD-FDD." However, the government required that he form a new party with a new name, so he called it "CNDD." It was registered in January 2005 and is not connected to the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
  • Nyangoma is one of the most outspoken and articulate of the opposition political leaders. In addition, his historic role as founder of CNDD-FDD, as well as his renowned intellect give him a high stature in Burundi's political landscape.
  • 2005 Elections: In 2005, CNDD won 10.2% of the Senate and 3.3% of the National Assembly.
  • 2010 Elections: Nyangoma's presidential prospects were quite limited. Nyangoma and the CNDD could have influence, however, by throwing support to another party, probably FRODEBU.

    Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL) (formerly Palipehutu-FNL)

  • Predominantly Hutu; founded in 1980 as a political movement. Its armed branch was created in 1983.
  • FNL signed the final cease-fire implementation agreement in December 2008. The GoB registered FNL as a political party in April 2009 after FNL leadership finally agreed to drop the "palipehutu" (Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People) from the party's name. Ethnic references are banned by constitutional prohibition.
  • 2005 Elections: In 2005, FNL was not a registered political party.
  • 2010 Elections: FNL's prospects for the elections were difficult to gauge considering they became a political party just months earlier. While FNL haf support throughout the countryside, it dif not have political experience, nor coulf it match the CNDD-FDD's party machinery.

    Union Pour la Democratie (UPD) Zigamibanga

  • Predominantly Hutu, but working hard to attract Tutsi support.
  • While CNDD-FDD's head of ideology and propaganda, Hussein Radjabu created UPD as a surreptitious, strategic alternative party, in case the GoB did not register CNDD-FDD. Radjabu planned to use UPD as CNDD-FDD's political arm and had UPD registered in 2002, but when CNDD-FDD was registered in 2005, UPD became unnecessary and then inactive.
  • Radjabu went on to be president of CNDD-FDD and kingmaker of Nkurunziza, but in February 2007, he was expelled from CNDD-FDD and subsequently imprisoned for plotting to overthrow the government. Radjabu then reactivated UPD, installing his cousin Mohamed Feruzi as party president.
  • 2005 Elections: UPD was not active in 2005.
  • 2010 Elections: UPD was swiftly growing in popularity in the interior. Radjabu ran the party from jail and was an experienced, no-holds-barred political operator.

    Mouvement pour la Solidarite et la Democratie (MSD)

  • MSD's founders are Hutu, but party president Alexis Sinduhije is a Tutsi. The party's platform includes overcoming ethnic conflict and division.
  • The government registered MSD on June 8, 2009, after more than a year of delays. The GoB reportedly delayed the registration out of fear that Sinduhije will use his influence effectively against the ruling party in the upcoming elections.
  • 2005 Elections: In 2005, MSD did not exist.
  • 2010 Elections: Sinduhije, well-known former journalist and manager of a popular radio station, was the presumed presidential candidate, but has stated that he wished to create a primary process within his party to nominate the presidential candidate. Sinduhije's prospects as presidential candidate were limited. He had support among the intelligentsia and in Bujumbura, but it is said that he did not yet resonate with the general populace in Burundi's interior. Since MSD was so closely identified with Sinduhije, it was difficult to assess the popularity of MSD as a party. As with Sinduhije himself, MSD's message and approach seemed to connect with the well-educated elite rather than the majority of Burundi's population.

    ACTIVE BUT MINOR POLITICAL PARTIES

    ABAHUZA (Party for the Restoration of the Monarchy and Dialogue (Parti pour la restauration de la monarchie et la dialogue)

  • the name ABAHUZA means "'come together'" in the Kirundi language.
  • ABAHUZA was recognized as an official political party by the Interior Ministry of Burundi in September 2004.
  • ABAHUZA's presidential candidate for the 2005 election was the sister of Prince Kamatari, Princess Esther Kamatari, a former fashion model who had been living in France since 1970. She is the niece of the last king (or mwami) of Burundi.
  • ABAHUZA's presidential candidate hoped her status as a Ganwa [also known as Baganwa] (a royal class which considers itself neither Tutsi nor Hutu) would "put her above tribal loyalties".
  • In 2005 an ABAHUZA leader urged Burundi's president to recognize the Ganwa as a separate ethnic group and criticized the appointment of political positions based on ethnicity in Burundi.
  • Prince Godefroid Kamatari, a high-ranking member of the royal family, was ABAHUZA's leader in 2004 when the party was founded. Prince Kamatari died of unknown causes in August 2005.
  • The monarchist party played only a minor role in politics and had the support of only a small portion of the population.

    ABASA (African-Burundian Alliance for Salvation)

  • Registered in July 1993; predominantly Tutsi.
  • Although the party has few members, its leader, Ambassador Terence Nsanze, remains vocal on all hot issues.

    ADR (Democratic Alliance for Revival)

  • Registered in August 2008 by a splinter that broke away from the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

    CDP (Council of Patriots)

  • Registered in March 2009; predominantly Hutu.

    FRODEBU Nyakuri ("The Real" FRODEBU)

  • Predominantly Hutu.
  • In 2007, prominent FRODEBU member Dr. Jean Minani created this faction and called it FRODEBU Nyakuri. The GoB registered it in 2008, allowing FRODEBU Nyakuri use of the name and symbols of the main FRODEBU party. Reports indicate that the ruling party fostered the FRODEBU split after Hussein Radjabu's February 2007 ouster from CNDD-FDD led to CNDD-FDD losing its majority in the National Assembly.

    MRC (Movement for the Rehabilitation of Citizens) Rurenzangemero

  • Registered in November 2002; predominantly Tutsi.
  • It is believed that Epitace Bayaganakandi (who was Minister of Interior during the height of the civil war and also formerly Minister of Transportation) created the party to represent Tutsis who are not from Burundi's southern provinces, particularly Bururi province. Burundi's ruling Tutsis have predominantly come from the southern provinces.
  • In the 2005 elections, MRC won two seats in the National Assembly. MRC has stated that it is "in the opposition" and is promising to participate in the 2010 elections.

    PARENA (Party for National Recovery)

  • Registered in August 1994; predominantly Tutsi.
  • Founded by former President of Burundi Jean-Baptiste Bagaza.
  • PARENA adopted a very low profile after performing poorly in the 2005 elections. However, Bagaza started to speak out again.

    PTD-Twungurunani (Party of Workers and Democracy)

  • Registered in April 2008; limited to union activists.

    RADEBU (Union of Democrats for Development in Burundi)

  • Jean de Dieu Mutabazi, formerly a prominent member of FRODEBU, created the RADEBU splinter party. The GoB registered RADEBU in 2007. It has historically supported the CNDD-FDD but has not been very active recently.



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