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Burundi - 2005 Elections

In April 2005, Burundi's transitional government was again extended and an electoral calendar was established at a regional summit held in Uganda. In accordance with the new electoral calendar, the Burundian people voted in Commune Council direct elections on June 3, 2005 and National Assembly direct elections on July 4, 2005. An electoral college of commune and provincial councils indirectly elected Senate members on July 29, 2005.

A joint session of the parliament elected Pierre Nkurunziza as President of Burundi on August 19, 2005 in a vote of 151 to 9 with one abstention, establishing the post-transition government. Nkurunziza was born 18 December to a wealthy family of Hutu ethnicity. His father, Eustache Ngabisha, was elected to the Parliament of Burundi in 1965 and later became governor of two provinces before being killed in 1972 during a period of ethnic violence that claimed the lives of over 100,000 Burundians. He was one of seven children. Two of his siblings were killed after the civil war erupted in 1993 and three others died while fighting in the CNDD-FDD.

He joined the Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ethnic Hutu rebel group that later transformed itself into a political party. in 1995 as a soldier after the army attacked the university campus. In a 2004 interview with the IRIN humanitarian news agency, he recalls the events that occurred: "In 1995, the Tutsi army attacked the campus and killed 200 students. They tried to kill me too. The attackers shot at my car but I got out and ran away. They torched my car. I then joined the CNDD-FDD as a soldier. This war was forced on us; we did not start it."

After rising through the ranks, Nkurunziza was appointed deputy secretary-general of the CNDD-FDD in 1998. In 2001, he was elected chairman. There was a split in the group in late 2001. He was re-elected to the post of chairman in August 2004.

Finally, the Burundian people established Colline (hill) councils through direct elections on September 23, 2005. The transitional Presidency from 2002 to 2005 was shared between UPRONA leader Pierre Buyoya and FRODEBU head Domitien Ndayizeye. Elections in 2005 ended this bipartisan consensus. Hutu rebel groups, notably the CNDD-FDD, changed into political organisations following the end of hostilities, and won an overwhelming victory at all levels in the elections. Large numbers of Tutsi joined previously Hutu parties, and UPRONA and FRODEBU faded as electoral powers, though ethnic divisions remain politically salient. The new Government, largely comprised of former rebel leaders, faced a steep learning curve.

In July 2006, a wide range of key opposition figures, including former President Ndayizeye were arrested after the authorities claimed to have uncovered a 'coup' plot. They were finally released after 5 months in detention. Then, in early 2007, the President of the CNDD-FDD was arrested and his supporters within the party removed. This split lost the CNDD-FDD their majority in the National Assembly, and the resulting paralysis of government (no significant legislation was passed between April and November 2007) led President Nkurunziza to seek alliances with UPRONA and FRODEBU resulting in the announcement of a Government of National Unity on 14 November 2007.

By 2007 President Pierre Nkurunziza was progressively moving away from a government based on democratic values towards a military dictatorship more akin to the culture and past of the ruling CNDD-FDD party. Critics attributed Burundi's political impasse to Nkurunziza and his government's disregard of Burundi's constitution and the key principles of the Arusha Peace accords upon which the constitution was founded. The FRODEBU party was a political threat and the PALIPEHUTU-FNL was a military threat to CNDD-FDD's future.

Burundians had a tendency to compare their current economic and political condition to that of neighboring Rwanda, deeming (and rightly) that Rwanda was far and away the more advanced of the two. They credited Rwandan President Kagame's strong leadership and political savvy for the disparity. Although President Nkurunziza tried to emulate Kagame with his declarations of compulsory Saturday morning community service, free primary school, and free health care for children under five and pregnant women, he lacked the charismatic decisiveness and the informed political vision that characterized for Burundians his Kigali counterpart.

A survivor of years on the lam in the bush, Nkurunziza had a certain streetwise survivor's savvy, but he had surrounded himself with a number of shadowy figures widely purported to be manipulating events to keep the ruling party in power. Their machinations were believed to include extortion, intimidation and even murder. Whether Nkurunziza himself was involved in illegal acts was unclear, but it certainly was plausible that some of his closest advisors, most particularly Security Services Chief Adolphe Nshirimana, condoned the use of violence to achieve their political objectives.

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Page last modified: 13-12-2015 20:31:37 ZULU