Tension is mounting on Burundi’s political scene. Opposition parties continue to contest results of the 2010 presidential elections and recently condemned a series of laws seen as a government control tactic. Meanwhile, civil society just wants some democracy.
By Marie Claire Ndikumana, Bujumbura
Burundi currently has 44 political parties for a population estimated at 8.5 million.
The political parties that withdrew from the 2010 presidential elections have been vehemently against the current regime ever since. To oppose the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), they formed the Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC-Ikibiri).
It hardly seems a surprise that the government just banned release of a Human Rights Watch report on the East African country’s worsening political situation.
Laws or tactics?
In 2011, the National Assembly passed a series of laws stating that, among other things, founding members of a political party must originate from all of Burundi’s 17 provinces. The government claims this regulation promotes political dialogue at an administrative level, thereby preventing discord and violence.
According to ADC-Ikibiri spokesperson Chauvineau Mugwengezo, these laws are nothing but “a manoeuvre by the government to disqualify opposition parties”. He sees it as an attempt by the regime to establish a one-party state.
Civil society organisations declare that the law on political parties must reflect true democracy. “A compromise is necessary from both sides,” said Pacifique Nininahazwe, chairman of the Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society (FORSC). In Nininahazwe’s view, England has clearly exemplified how a ruling party and the opposition must be equally respected. The laws in question should provide all political parties a way forward – not a trap.
Meanwhile, the faceoff between the CNDD-FDD and the opposition persists. As a result, few parties met the initial 10 March 2012 closing deadline for party registration.
Only 24 of the 44 political formations in Burundi managed to comply with the new law, a less than satisfactory figure for Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana, who thus extended the deadline until 1 July 2012.
The minister warned the defiant ADC-Ikibiri coalition of prosecution. “Cases of non-compliance will be taken to the Supreme Court,” he said.