Burundi is among the smallest economies in the world. The International Monetary Fund recently ranked Burundi as the poorest country in the world. The decision of the ruling party in April, 2015 sparked the ongoing political turmoil which enabled the president to seek a contested term, has caught the attention of many media outlets on an international scale due the alarming amount of violence.
Burundi emerged from a civil war (1993-2005) with a weakened its economy, ts legal system and endangered transparency in public internal affairs. This African country is now at crossroads and seems to be prone to another conflict. Many commentators have been more concerned about the political aspect of the current crisis. They have ignored the crucial economic dimension of the crisis which is central to understand the current conflict.
Corruption hits many countries in Africa and did not leave Burundi behind. A Transparency International Report in Africa, December 2015 shows that the Burundi courts and police come first with 16-30 percent of police users who paid a bribe.
Most bribe givers are ordinary people in urban areas who try to get licenses or seek to resolve land disputes. Especially in their struggle to meet the basic necessities.
Another sector which corruption is prevalent is in a public sector. Where job opportunities reflect political rather than competitive trends. Many workers are still hired based on their political aspirations despite formal channels of job recruitment. In April 2015, a growing number of graduates and students have responded to the call of opposition and civil societies to protest against the president’s decision to be reelected for a third term.
This political resentment amid youth in the form of protests has been mainly obvious in urban areas. Especially in slums in Bujumbura capital. Youth alienated from the ruling party in capital Bujumbura took the lead in these demonstrations chanting anti-president slogans. Although it was not like the recent protest in Brazil against Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff. It still shows how the citizens can challenge the elites decisions asking for the rule of law and transparency.
It is significant to note that the above tendency of recruitment has been endemic to all successive governments in Burundi. This spurred an unequal share in public sector between the political clients and non-political partisans.
As stated by Rachel Strohm: “corruption could delegitimize fragile post-conflict governments and creates grievances that could spark a return to conflict”. For instance, OLUCOME (Anti-corruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory) has expressed a deep concern over Nickel deposit in region of Musongati in their allegations against the government in granting mining licenses in a non-transparent process to International Companies to explore and extract the Nickel . The OLUCOME as well as the Media enhanced the political accountability of the citizens as well as their public awareness to the government mineral policy.
The youth population in Burundi which is younger than 15 years is 39 percent, according to a World Bank report in 2011. Thus, this Nickel reserve which is 6 percent of World’s Nickel reserves ought to be used to tackle growing unemployment and support the government to meet its immense challenges of sustainable development. Clearly tangible efforts should be made to improve official transparency in this mineral field. As well as in public job recruitment. This would require the state to allow the outreach of Media and Civil societies.
Eventually, the youth will be more concerned with the economic issues rather than political disputes. However political will is central to redressing all these issues which impede the country of honey and milk. Both responsible parties for this political situation in Burundi ought to see that dialogue makes more sense than violence. Sit around the negotiation table at the upcoming discussions on 21 May,2016 in Arusha, Tanzania is the way forward.
Image source: CNN – https://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/150514114641-02-burundi-unrest-0514-super-169.jpg