ANALYSIS OF THE APRIL 8, 2020 AFRICA BRIEFING Number 153 ON BURUNDI BY CRISIS GROUP TITLED. mise à jour / “First step towards reform in Burundi: putting an end to forced contributions system”.

At the outset, it is necessary to specify that the analysis that I make on different topics and themes is personal and therefore engages only my own responsibility.

As someone who has done research and published academic papers, I realize that there are facetiousness and inconsistencies in the reports on Burundi published by international organizations and various commissions which are difficult for me to digest.

 I am aware that these reports are politically, diplomatically, and strategically motivated by their sponsors, but for the credibility of the authors, a minimum of objectivity and professionalism in terms of consistency and logic is required.

As a Burundian citizen, it is also my duty to contribute by enlightening public opinionon a range of facts to prevent those who still have a minimum of good faith from making decisions based on untruths. The analysis of the Crisis group briefing falls into this perspective.

I went through Crisis Group’s Africa Briefing N ° 153 (English and French versions) and the observation remains the same: a faulty method of collecting information (which raises major concerns of objectivity), quite striking contradictions, and to top it all, a total denial of the sovereignty and culture of Burundi and its institutions.

I noted the same shortcomings in the report of the Burundi commission of inquiry (A / HRC / 42 / CRP.2) headed by Doudou Diène[1]. Moreover, the two organizations are working hard to instrumentalize the coronavirus pandemic to harm Burundi. If we consider the media release of April 10, 2020, from the president of the United Nations commission of inquiry on Burundi[2]. How one cannot understand the proximity of their two releases (April 8 and 10, 2020) and the harsh criticism of the Burundian health system, when the COVID-19 Pandemic has just appeared in Burundi? In addition, it has become a reality that no country in the world is better prepared to effectively fight coronavirus:

“The lack of donor support leads to negative consequences, such as the weakening of an already fragile health system. Although Burundi has so far only recorded three cases of Covid-19, due to the lack of tests or the relative insularity which would have had the effect of protecting the country against the pandemic, it would not have not the resources to deal with an outbreak of the virus. »[3]

Almost at the same time, Doudou Diène declared:

“The Commission called on the Burundian authorities to cooperate closely and transparently with international and non-governmental organizations to implement immediately the recommendations of the World Health Organization on social distancing in particular, and to encourage all initiatives in this direction, including at the individual level, instead of threatening the authors. The Government should develop as soon as possible a plan to deal with the threat of coronavirus and bring aid to those who need it, both by its own effort and by requesting international assistance and cooperation if its means are not enough. (…) Combating the pandemic requires a targeted, coherent, and transparent effort. (…) This is more difficult in a pre-electoral context like in Burundi, which requires even more vigilance. The instrumentalization of the pandemic should not be allowed for political or economic ends”[4].

What authority do these organizations have to issue injunctions to the government of Burundi?

Who between the commission and the government of Burundi wants to instrumentalize the Covid-19? At such a time when solidarity is required to fight this pandemic, critics of Burundi are using this opportunity to fire red bullets at the government of Burundi which, however, is doing everything it can to limit the spread of the virus.

Why do these organizations want to infantilize the government of Burundi? What right do they have to want to dictate what should be done to the Burundians? Can’t Burundians decide for themselves on crucial issues that affect their own lives? Covid-19 has proven to the world that, even the great powers, no one is better prepared to deal with this pandemic.

Creating such controversies currently has no other end than to distract the Burundians and thus open breaches for critics of Burundi to better destabilize the country. This is not the time for controversy but a time to come together to better combat the global threat of covid-19.

The Burundian authorities are working closely with other national and international actors in the fight against the pandemic and so far, this collaboration has paid off. We imagine what foreigner (powerful or not) or what international organization or even which country in the world would have the nerve to strike such blows at the Italians, French, Americans, and other countries hard hit by the Covid- 19? Can they do it without provoking muscular or even hostile reactions? Why do people and international organizations allow themselves to do what they would not dare to do elsewhere?

Yet everyone (including Crisis group) knows that no actor can take the place of the state, that any actor who refuses to collaborate with the state in matters which primarily concern the given state would only discredit and strip of its prerogatives. Any action by foreign actors must be carried out with strict respect for the sovereignty of the country, its institutions, its culture, and its values. That being said, what about the briefing under analysis?

I. Denial of Burundi’s sovereignty and interference in the internal affairs of Burundi

This interference in Burundi’s internal affairs appears mainly in the questioning of Burundi’s internal choices and institutions. Indeed, the organization of elections is a sovereign prerogative of the State of Burundi and any interference in this domain is simply unacceptable.

Community contribution to fund elections is rather a source of pride for Burundian citizens. The authors of the briefing attribute their own frustration and that of the sponsors of their reports to the Burundian population.

Why do these organizations and other critics of Burundi seem to feel sorry for the fate of the Burundians? Is it really from love or for the sake of protecting Burundians against a regime that does not care about the fate of its own population? The answer is certainly no because everyone knows that a breach in the field of sovereignty only weakens the institutions.

It is common knowledge that the financing of elections in a country by external actors is never free. The Burundian people have learned the lessons from their history (from that of others too). Voluntary contributions to the funding of elections were made within a very specific framework and governed by law, as evidenced by the joint orders of the Minister of Finance, the Budget, Economic Development Planning and Privatization and the Minister of the Interior and of the Patriotic Formation fixing the period, the modalities and the amounts.[5]

The voluntary aspect and transparent management of contributions on which Crisis group seems to insist and which seems to have motivated the publication could only convince the most naïve. The great concern is that the Burundians succeeded in a challenge that they had launched to those who intended to paralyze the institutions by blocking the aid promised to finance the elections as it was the case in 2015.

Helping to finance the elections is a national pride. As for transparency in the collection and management of these contributions, the population has always been informed about the funds available and the amount that was necessary to finance the elections. To say that President “Nkurunziza never specified the amount necessary to finance the 2020 elections”[6] it is a lie aimed at tarnishing his image. The bank account into which the contributions were paid has been officially communicated. Voluntary contribution to elections is a patriotic act and the case of Burundi has been emulated elsewhere in other countries.

Finally, it is absurd to confuse community work and forced contributions:

“For example, in 2006, Nkurunziza introduced a compulsory community public works program, which required neighborhoods to physically contribute to the cleaning, construction and maintenance of public spaces and local offices of the CNDD-FDD. »P.7.

It should be noted here that it is the members of each political party who build the offices of their political party. Encouraging people to clean their homes to avoid unhealthy illnesses like malaria should be encouraged. At the time of covid-19 everyone is invited to take protective measures, both at the individual and community level to protect themselves and others.

Is there not some disappointment on the part of some critics of Burundi to see that Burundians are able to build roads, hospitals, health centers and other infrastructure without their contributions? However, all Burundians benefit from the benefits of these community works:

A health center or a school welcomes everyone without asking whether the person participated in the work or not. When a road or a bridge is built, it is for everyone. This also dissipated the resistance observed at the beginning of the introduction of community work in Burundi because some thought that community works were being organized by the ruling party and that only members of this party would benefit from the spinoffs. The Burundian people quickly understood this and moved forward. Crisis group and other people or organizations should also move forward because Burundians are no longer there.

II. A method of collecting information that questions the reliability of the briefing / report.

Even if the authors of the briefing claim to have done “field work” for this briefing, the question remains which field: “Crisis Group did the field work for this Briefing before the Covid-19 pandemic. ” p.1. Does interviewing “diplomats” in New York, Brussels, or talking to people in Kigali, Nairobi and Bujumbura by phone implies fieldwork? Nowhere in the text do we see where the editors of the briefings went to Burundi. The extension of the Burundian field to all places: Kigali, Brussels, Nairobi, New York creates confusion and greatly undermines the credibility of the report. To this geographic ambiguity is added that of the sources and which raises questions about the authenticity of the sources and the veracity of the information collected: A few examples only:

– “Crisis Group interviews, UN diplomat, New York, November 2019 senior Burundian government official, January 2020; Burundian student, February 2020; UN diplomat, New York, February 2020; Western diplomat, Brussels, February 2020. ” note N ° 59, p.12

– “Crisis Group interviews, Burundian diaspora, June 2019” note N ° 39. P.9

– Crisis Group interviews, civil society organizations and Burundian journalists, Kigali, June 2019. Crisis Group telephone interviews, Burundians in the country, July and August 2019; Burundian academics, Nairobi, July 2019. Note N ° 38, p.9.

– Crisis Group interviews, Burundian academics and students, Nairobi, July 2019 and January 2020. Crisis Group telephone interviews, Burundians in the country, July and August 2019; Burundian political analyst, January 2020, note N ° 43, p.10

– Crisis Group interview, senior Burundian government official, October 2019. Note N ° 49

– Crisis Group telephone interviews, human rights activists, July 2019; employee of a Burundian anti-corruption organization, August 2019; Burundian political analyst, January 2020. Note N ° 51.

– Crisis Group interviews, Burundian diaspora and Western diplomat, Brussels, February 2020. Note N ° 51

These few examples clearly show that the briefing is based on telephone interviews with people who are difficult to identify. Who is the so-called “Burundian diaspora”? “Diplomats”, “UN diplomat” or “Western diplomat”?

Clearly, these so-called remote sources do not exist but are invented to legitimize fabrications. In addition to this, can people, organizations and radio stations which are in conflict with Burundian law (refugees / slingers from cndd-fdd, rpa, forsc, etc.) give objective and politically neutral information?

III. A briefing full of contradictions and lies

It appeared in the text contradictions and lies that would not leave anyone indifferent. Nobody forces the population to give gifts to the President of the Republic, contrary to the statements of Crisis Group: “For their part, citizens of rural areas who lack cash are often supposed to give cattle to President Nkurunziza himself . »P.7. Crisis Group’s total ignorance of Burundian culture should be noted. The tradition of giving gifts to visitors is deeply rooted in Burundian culture. Foreigners who visit Burundi know it better.

With unfair and false assertions, it is clear that Crisis Group is engaged in disinformation aimed to harm public reputation of Ndayishimiye Evariste, presidential candidate of the cndd-fdd party:

“In addition, with the appointment of Evariste Ndayishimiye as the CNDD-FDD candidate to replace Nkurunziza, the practice appears to have gained momentum. In January 2020, the Imbonerakure and local chiefs went door-to-door in the province of Gitega to oblige Burundians to contribute 500 francs to the success of a collective prayer during an event organized by the ruling party, where he also announced the appointment of Ndayishimiye. The inhabitants of Bujumbura contributed 1,500 francs and food for the same event, the collection being supervised by the Imbonerakure. Ndayishimiye also asks visitors for a contribution in cash and in kind when they come to see him, relying on the custom of Nkurunziza which requires donations during his trips to the provinces. Both members and non-members of the party must contribute. »Pp.11-12

The briefing editor does not specify when the collections were made because going door-to-door throughout a province would still take enough time. Why would the collections concern the only province of Gitega and Bujumbura when the cndd-fdd party is strongly established throughout the country? The reader of the briefing wonders if the positions and speeches attributed to the presidential candidate of the Cndd-Fdd really belong to him?

 We read in fact on page 3 of the briefing:

“Evariste Ndayishimiye, the presidential candidate for the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD-FDD), said he wanted to re-establish the link with international actors. Burundi’s external partners should encourage Ndayishimiye to respect these modest commitments, concerning the abolition of forced contributions, which would mark the beginnings of the reform program that they would like to see him undertake. ” This so-called commitment is contradicted by the position Crisis Group attributes to Evariste Ndayishimiye on page 13:

“Even if, as we have already mentioned, candidate Ndayishimiye has already expressed his position in favor of forced contributions, it might be worth trying to get him to change his mind. A series of significant commitments, such as a promise to enact a ban on the collection of forced contributions of money or property outside the official tax system, whether for electoral preparations or for any other purpose, could be suggested. (This prohibition would not apply to truly voluntary and non-partisan collective public works projects) “.

It is difficult to understand how Ndayishimiye can be favorable and unfavorable at the same time on “forced contributions”. If we accept that he has expressed the will to establish links with international actors, it is difficult to understand the link that Crisis Group makes with (…) these modest commitments relating to the abolition of forced contributions (.. .). Doesn’t Crisis Group make Ndayishimiye say what he did not say? How could contradict himself so easily?

No serious presidential candidate can build his reputation on illegality and wrongfulness and hope to win the vote of citizens. Unless the presidential candidate and Crisis Group do not have the same definition of “forced contributions”.

Here the question arises whether it is the force of the law or the law of force? Obviously, this is bad publicity for the candidate of cndd-fdd and it is a proof of taking position and interfering in the internal affairs of Burundi on the part of Crisis Group, an organization which should remain neutral.

In conclusion, reading the Crisis Group briefing on Burundi suggests that the author (s) do not have efforts to be objective and neutral. This affects the quality of the report even if it does not change the aims of the sponsors of the report. The latter must find reasons, however eccentric they may be, to continue to strangle Burundi economically and diplomatically. The shortcomings observed in anonymous sources of information, the inaccuracies, contradictions, and unfair assertions are evidences of character assassination or slander aiming at provoking disrepute on Burundi and on the presidential candidate from Cndd-Fdd.

 The coincidence between the Crisis Group Africa briefing (April 8, 2020) and the statement by the United Nations commission of inquiry on Burundi (April 10, 2020) rather indicates a certain collusion between the two organizations (their masters). The harsh criticism of the government over the management of the Covid-19 rather shows a willingness of these organizations to exploit the pandemic to their advantage.

Given the international mobilization and solidarity to fight against this scourge, such criticism can only slow this momentum and thus harm the Burundian people. Crisis Group apparently failed to report to the Burundian authorities and the Burundian people what other governments around the world have done that have saved them from the pandemic.

By only sticking on harsh and negative criticisms without suggesting constructive solutions, Crisis Group adds no value  to what we already know about its conspiracy against the Burundian people.

Moscow, April 13, 2020.


[1]                           in-burundi/              


[3] Crisis Group. Briefing Afrique, numéro 153 du 8 avril 2020.


[5] N°530/540/1772 du 11/12/2017 portant modalités de collecte de la contribution de la population aux élections de 2020 et N°530/540/1554 du 12/8/2019 portant arrêt de la collecte de contribution de la population aux élections de 2020.

[6] Crisis Group. Briefing Afrique N°153, p.9

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