BURUNDI VOTE COULD UNDO DELICATE HUTU-TUTSI BALANCE
(GIN) – As U.S. President Trump unravels carefully crafted legislation at home, the newly-passed referendum in Burundi may unravel a balance of power between Hutus and Tutsis, worrying some experts in diplomacy.
The finely-tuned Hutu-Tutsi ethnic balance, defined in the 2000 Arusha agreement, helped end Burundi’s civil war, say policy strategists at the International Crisis Group. Under the amended constitution approved this week, senior government posts will be distributed according to ethnicity.
Voters also gave the current president, Pierre Nkurunziza, close to two additional decades in office – extending his reign until 2034 after his current term expires in 2020. A former teacher and rebel leader, Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005.
The measures were approved by 75% of voters, with 17% opposed on a reported turnout of 98%.
“The result reinforces a broad trend in the central African region where a series of rulers have lifted limits on their terms or otherwise bolstered their powers,” notes Jason Burke of the Guardian. Examples include President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Joseph Kabila of the Congo, and Yoweri Museventi of Uganda.
Patrick Hajayandi of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation called the election outcome “a negative trend.”
The civil war between Hutus and Tutsis raged from 1993 to 2005 and took almost 300,000 lives. A peace process facilitated by Nelson Mandela called for power rotating between the ethnic groups every 18 months. Under the new constitution, one of the country’s two constitutionally enshrined vice presidents is scrapped and a number of powers shift away from the government to the president.