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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Burundi at the crossroads

A deep malaise grips Burundi in this electoral season. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s April decision to seek a third term in contravention of what many Burundians consider the intent of the Constitution threw the country into weeks of political and popular turmoil, leaving scores dead. Despite ardent domestic and international calls for a postponement of the elections, the President and his supporters are resolute: parliamentary elections compromised by gunshots, grenade attacks, and very low voter turnout were held on 29 June; presidential elections, in which Nkurunziza will be the ruling party’s candidate, are scheduled for 15 July.


Burundian students slide under the main access gate of the US Embassy compound in Bujumbura on Thursday, seeking refuge after police threatened to break up their camp outside the compound. (AFP PHOTO/MARCO LONGARI)What current and historical factors have brought Burundi to this pass? What do these events augur for the country, which has so often and so tragically been shaken by political violence? What can be done—by Burundians and their friends and neighbours—to steer the country off the road to another civil war?

On July 7, 2015, the Nairobi Forum hosted a public panel of Burundi specialists to seek answers to these and other questions. Willy Nindorera, Bujumbura-based author and political analyst, was joined on the panel by Devon Curtis, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge, Alfred Nicayenzi, Chairman of the African Century Capital Group, and Aidan Russell, Assistant Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. The event was moderated by Maria Burnett of Human Rights Watch.



Maria Burnett
Human Rights Watch


Devon Curtis
Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge

Willy Nindorera
Author and Political Analyst

Alfred Nicayenzi
African Century Capital Group

Aidan Russell
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

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