10 april 2021

Vorige maand werd in RegionWeek een opiniestuk geplaatst over de problemen die Burundi heeft op te lossen. We raden dit artikel aan en plaatsen het hier voor degenen die zich daar een verder beeld over willen vormen. De schrijver is Fabrice Iranzi.

Top 5 Political challenges that Burundi will face in the coming days

Dear Readers,

It is a pleasure to have once again this opportunity to write about Burundi after several days. Today, I thought that it would be great to explore what is coming.

First, I would like to make it clear, that Burundi, as a country that spent decades, bogged down in wars and all sorts of violence— faces numerous challenges some of which will take centuries to be tackled. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for political leaders to dwell in complacency. So without further ado let’s dive into today’s topic.

Where are we?
Burundi is slowly recovering from its recent wave of violence and political unrest that erupted in 2015 over the Cndd-Fdd party’s decision to have late President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term. Thousands of refugees are returning home every month. Burundi had a fairly peaceful election. The diplomatic community acknowledges that the new President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishime is showing positive signs of openness. Media outlets under sanctions since 2015 got to hope to reopen this year, marking a new step toward-the remote-dwelling “freedom of speech”. With the repetitive call for accountability that the new government of Burundi ushered in since last year we may be tempted to believe that everything is settled now— but the truth is, not only old challenges are still real, but the new ones will become more urgent in the coming days, let’s see the top 5:

1.Lack of credible opposition
In the near future, the need to bring Burundi opposition’s parties into focus as crucial actors of the democratic decision-making process will be felt deeply. As Author Omkar Dattatray notes, strong, constructive and viable as well as reformative opposition can play an important role in democratic functioning and governance. One cannot think of a successful democracy without strong, united, and constructive opposition. Burundi’s opposition parties since 2010 have become less credible each election round.

Regardless of the nature and quality of electoral processes, opposition parties have remained weak and fragmented, and unable to carry out their roles of political counterweight to the victorious party (Cndd-Fdd) and president. The performance of opposition parties indicates that we should question whether Burundi’s multiparty system really is progressing or not.

As the Crisis Group reported,

“after the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) announced in May 2010 the CNDD-FDD had received 64 percent of the vote in the local elections, the opposition parties, which had been confident of victory, denounced “massive electoral fraud”. However, all national and international observers, the media, and civil society recognized the vote as free and fair, despite some irregularities. The opposition responded by forming a coalition (l’Alliance des Démocrates pour le Changement au Burundi, ADC-Ikibiri) and said further involvement in the electoral process depended on dismissal of the CENI and cancellation of the local election. When their demands were rejected, most boycotted the remaining elections, resulting in overwhelming victories for the ruling party – 91 percent of the vote in the presidential contest and 81 percent and 94 percent respectively in those for the lower and upper houses of the legislature – which thereby consolidated its control over all state institutions.”

The opposition party has lost credibility, Burundi democracy needs a new wave of political parties and leaders that are consistently credible. As Researcher Lise Rakner notes, opposition parties and their position in the national legislature is a central component of any strategy of “democratization by elections”. Where political parties are underdeveloped and non-institutionalized, vertical accountability is undermined.

2.Economic Competitiveness
Burundi is the 135 most competitive nation in the world out of 140 countries ranked in the 2018 edition of the Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum. Now, according to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts expectations, the Burundi Competitiveness Rank is projected to trend around 136 in 2021.

This shows clearly that competitiveness is not among Burundi’s strengths, and point out that there is a need to focus and grasp the role of human capital, innovation, resilience, and agility, as not only drivers but also defining features of economic success in this 4th Industrial Revolution.

One of the key priorities is to increase Burundi’s capacity to be an active trader on the international markets. This is only possible by improving compliance with international standards. The challenge will be to have policies that allow us to see goods designed, manufactured, and supplied according to sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, that meet the needs, expectations, and requirements of buyers and consumers, as well as those of the regulatory authorities in the local and export market.

This will also require political decision-makers to intensify efforts in simplifying, harmonizing, and standardizing trade procedures, as well as increasing their transparency so as to reduce the time and cost of trade operations.

3.Weak civil society,
In Burundi, unlike overtly political organizations such as political parties, civil society organizations were thought to pursue political objectives that were not partisan and, more importantly, they were thought to promote political change without seeking office.

It is not the case, because, in Burundi, we saw that Civil society often failed at its mission to provide a permanent independent check on state power. While it is true that the number of organizations has increased in Burundi over time, the number of activists has not.

Researchers define civil society as an intermediate associational realm between the state and individuals, populated by organizations and groups that are separate from the state, enjoy autonomy in relation to the state, and are formed voluntarily by members of society to protect or advance their interests or values.

Today, on one hand, the political culture makes it difficult to question authority. Organizations with ample resources generally reflect the views of their donors. Organizations that have viewpoints at odds with those of donors, but whose existence would be beneficial to the development of a democratic society, are left by the wayside, this phenomenon builds consistently a weak civil society.

In the coming days, there is an urgent need to see civil society as a force that strengthens democracy in Burundi instead of being a negative force that dysfunction democratic practices.

4.Foreign Aid and Interference.
As many African countries are now understanding the real cost of Foreign Aid, Burundi will need to take tough decisions in the coming days to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are many types of “Foreign Aid”, Bilateral Aid, Military Aid, Multilateral Aid, Humanitarian Assistance, you name it. The real challenge will come from knowing what kind of Aid to choose to avoid Interference and preserve sovereignty.

There will be choices to be made, whether to see a “development” driven by external forces or to see development as a process that can be driven internally by organizing the production economy in an efficient manner. Many researchers find that foreign aid has a negative impact on growth. They argued that high levels of aid erode institutional quality, increases rent-seeking and corruption; therefore, negatively affects growth.

In his book Emerging Africa, Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu suggests that perhaps the main element that has caused the underdevelopment of the African continent is foreign aid. He asks whether several decades of huge amounts of development assistance have failed to produce any significant development and if this is self-evident, why African leaders have not reacted to this in kind.

It is known that Aid is often used to put political or economic pressure on the receiving country. It was seen that countries end up owing a donor country or organization a favor.

What will be the cost to create the enabling environment to build prosperity in Burundi? How concrete priorities such as job creation, regional integration, and economic engagement will be handled without sacrificing sovereignty?

In the coming days, Burundi will feel the pressure from rapid globalization, fiscal, social and technological changes. The need to provide services that are citizen-centric, efficient, transparent, effective, one-stop, any time and nonstop will be felt.

The challenge will be to see the adoption of technology as the most efficient way to integrate the public and private sectors and to provide services with accountability, transparency, and efficiency.

According to Researcher Abdul Mateen Samsor for countries such as Burundi, it is not an easy task due to the lack of ICT literacy, incomplete infrastructure, a digital divide existing between the rural poor and the emerging urban middle class, uncertainty about data privacy and data security, the absence of comprehensive ICT policies and legislation, lack of an ICT culture, you name it.

There is an urgent need for e-Government awareness in Burundi, especially the willingness of ministries to engage in information sharing. The resistance to change needs to be handled in priority because e-Government is a critical tool for the economic stability and growth of Burundi. e-Government is needed to develop more transparent, less corrupt institutions.

The Bottom Line.
It is true, Burundi is making progress, but a lot needs to be done. Proactive leadership is needed. Decision-makers will be expected to generate and enact self-initiated and future-focused leading actions that are persistently sustained to bring changes toward a more prosperous Burundi.

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