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BURUNDI

Sekondi Accra

Even though President Pierre Nkurunziza, Africa's youngest head of state along with the ruling party Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie-Forces pour la Defense de la Democratie (CNDD-FDD) were victorius in Burundi's May 2010 municipal elections, opposition parties immediately denounced the results as fraudulent. According to government tallies, CNDD-FDD had garnered 64% of the popular vote, while the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), led by Hutu former rebel Agathon Rwasa scored 14%. Rwasa's party was followed by the Tutsi party Union pour le Progres National (Uprona), with 6%, and the Front pour la Democratie au Burundi (Frodebu), founded by the late Melchoir Ndadaye', with only 5%.

When the government refused to allow a recount, the opposition boycotted ensuing elections, which were conducted under a climate of tension. Many observers fear that Burundi is on the verge of civil war. Between May and September 2010, there were several dozen assassinations along with numerous grenade attacks and the fire-bombing of CNDD-FDD party offices. This was in addition to the conflagrations between FNL's Ivyuma vy'indege and CNDD-FDD's militia, Imbonerakure. The June 2010 presidential vote was deemed a mandate in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who won with 92% of the vote. The following month (July 2010) the CNDD-FDD were victorious in legislative polls with an impressive 81% of the vote against the dissident factions of Frodebu and Uprona after they were invited to participate by the CNDD-FDD.

The immediate future of Burundi appears to be problematic. At least three opposition leaders opted for exile after the elections: FNL leader Agathon Rwasa, Leonard Nyangoma spokesman for the Alliance des Democrates por le Changement, and Alexis Sinduhije, president of the Mouvement pour la Solidarite et la Democratie. The elections, which were backed by Burundi's elite were intended to consumate democritization and a peace process dating back to the ARUSHA peace accords of 28 August 2000, appear to have led to the return of the single party era.

Even though the threat of continuing Hutu-Tutsi atrocities seem to have diminished, the tide of civil insurrection has increased because many feel disenfranchised. There are increased signs of guerrilla activity. In late August 2010, security forces detained two FNL members along with six members of another party for providing supplies to "insurrectionists" who were rumored to be secretly ensconced in Kibira forest in northwest Burundi. In September 2010, the police announced the arrest of at least "40" armed bandits whom they accused of belonging to the FNL and of murdering "30" civilians in the nature reserve at Rukoko. A likely story or a specious ruse? One never knows.

Should this instability continue, economic revival will remain nothing more than a chimera of the government's imagination. Burundi ranks a distant 176th out of 183 in the World Bank's Doing Business 2010 report, and prospects for economic diversification virtually nonexistent. Disagreements between shareholders Merlin Mineral Resources and Kermas Ltd. could delay mining of the Musongati nickel deposit. The only positive economic news is that oil exploration is slated to begin in 2011 after Surestream, a British petroleum company, completes a seismic study of Lake Tanganyika.

After a miserable 2009, accentuated by a decrease of the growth rate from 4.3% to 3.5%, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the real GDP growth rate will increase to 3.9% in 2010 and 4.5% in 2011. Tea production was expected to rise from 7,000 tons in 2009 to 7,600 tons in 2010 due to abundant rainfalls and increased use of fertilizers. Conversely, coffee production decreased by 6,822 tons in 2010 from the 2009 level of 25,204 tons, but the government expects the harvest to recover to 21,822 tons in 2011, because of rising bean prices. The sobering news of all this amounts to the fact that Burundi's trade deficit remains high with exports equaling about one quarter of imports.

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Burundi maintains an embassy in the United States at Suite 212, 2233 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-342-2574).
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