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The East African : Apr 19th 2015
10 SPILLOVER EFFECT Tension in Burundi could raise EA risk profile Investo≥s a≥e likely to eithe≥ close shop o≥ suspend ope≥ations in the count≥y A JOINT REPORT The EastAfrican countdown to the presidential elections in June could not only derail the country’s economic progress, but also threatens to undermine regional economic integration. Analysts warn that the ten- T sion, which has led to at least 6,000 people fleeing the country to Rwanda, could raise the risk profile of the region and dampen investor confidence in Burundi, a country that is under pressure to attract investment to support economic recovery after 13 years of civil war that ended in 2006. Businesses and investors are likely to go back to the drawing board either to close shop or suspend operations in the country should the political situation deteriorate further. The presidential elec- tion is set to take place on June 26, with the campaigns expected to start only two weeks to the voting day. Political parties are expected to announce their presidential candidates from April 30 to May 9. This is when it will be clear if President Pierre Nkurunziza will run for another term. Thousands of Burundians continue to flee the country as tensions rise over intimidation and violence perpetrated mainly by the militia, Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party, which wants President Nkurunziza to seek another term in office. The 2000 Arusha Accord that ended the country’s 13year civil war limits a president to two five-year terms he current political tension in Burundi in the The EastAfrican NEWS APRIL 18-24,2015 Burundian refugees arrive at the reception centre of Gashora in Bugesera, eastern Rwanda on April 3. Picture: AFP in office. Those who support another term for President Nkurunziza argue that his first term was not as an elected leader. Last week, a demonstra- tion in Bujumbura against another term turned violent after police used teargas and water cannons to disperse crowds. The demonstration was led by opposition leaders, including the former president’s spokesman Leonidas Hatungimana and Nyakuri Jean Minani of the Frodebu political party. “This is the beginning of the march. What we want is for the president not to run for the third term since this will be against the Burundi Constitution and the Arusha agreement,” said Mr Minani. Former members of CNDD- FDD, who were expelled from their political party for signing the petition against the incumbent’s third term, have joined the opposition. The UN High Commission- er for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has called on the government to clamp down on the Imbonerakure. “Over the past two days, the number crossing the border has soared to 1,000 peo- ple per day. Several of those who have left have told the UN explicitly that their reason for leaving were the actions of the militia,” said Mr Hussein. The UN secretary General Ban Ki Moon last week met Burundi Internal Affairs Minister Edward Nduwimana and expressed his concerns about the rising political tensions in the country. “Burundians should re- solve their political differences through dialogue and without resorting to violence,” said the Secretary General during the meeting with Edward Nduwimana in New York. President Nkurunziza spent two days of his visit in the northern part of the country, where many of the citizens were reported to have been increasingly crossing the border to the neighbouring Rwanda. During his address, President Nkurunziza said that anyone caught disseminating false information that is threatening and causing citizens to flee the country will be arrested. “There is ongoing propa- ganda that the country is insecure. What I can assure you is that we are going into these elections peacefully. Burundi will not go back to war after this hard-won peace and God is the witness,” said President Nkurunziza. In Bujumbura, four peo- ple were arrested including two university students accused of insulting the head of state and later transferred to Mpimba Central Prison. “No one knows when, where and how these students committed the offence,” said BUSINESS ANGLE While Rwanda and Tanzania are likely to feel the pinch of political tensions in Burundi more than their counterparts in East Africa due to their closer trade ties, the rest of the region is not immune. Kenya and Uganda, which have significant business interests in the country, could be affected. Trade experts also believe that should the political situation continue to worsen, it is likely to Dieudonné Bashirahishize, then defence lawyer. Twenty-five civil society or- ganisations have sent a letter to the UN Secretary General expressing fear and seeking a resolution compelling the Burundian army to disarm the Imbonerakure militia and approve a UN military intervention to prevent crimes against humanity being committed. Impact of tension But tensions continue to rise. Recently two members of CNDD-FDD found offensive paintings on their houses against Nkurunziza’s third term. Journalists have not been spared either. Recently, a Bonesha FM radio journalist escaped a bomb attack that targeted his home, while some say they have received threats from anonymous persons. The impact of the tension is being felt beyond Burundi. “Investors feel insecure not only for their lives but are also concerned about the survival of their businesses as people start leaving the coun- reduce the market for Rwanda’s exports, and the existing business opportunities. While definite figures are not available, Burundi remains Rwanda’s second largest market for nontraditional exports, mainly agro-processed products within Central and East African after Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda also re-exports petroleum products and vehicles to the country. try. It also makes it difficult to focus on work,” said Eric Rutabana, the chief investment officer at Business Partners International Rwanda. The crisis could negatively affect cross-border trade and derail regional projects and undermining the ongoing economic integration process. Of particular concern is the Northern Corridor project. During the 9th Northern Corridor Integration Projects summit that was held in Kigali on March 7, Burundi announced full involvement after participating in previous events as observers. It is not clear whether the country will still go ahead and officially commit to 14 ongoing projects at the forthcoming summit in Kampala in May. “We are concerned about the instability and refugee crisis as neighbours, but we do not yet know which projects are likely to be affected because Burundi is yet to inform the summit about the specific projects it would like to be involved in. They also have to first accede to the memorandum of understanding (MoUs) that have already been signed including the defence pact,” Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda’s co-ordinator of Northern Corridor Integration projects, told The East African. There are also fears within the Rwandan private sector that the ongoing crisis could further complicate an already difficult business environment for Rwandan importers and exporters. Rwandan businesses ac- cuse Burundian police of corruption, saying they extort bribes that increase the cost of doing business. “People already have res- ervations about the business environment in Burundi because it is becoming increasingly difficult. For instance, to get a power connection requires one to bribe a number of officials. The current political tensions are making the situation worse,” a member of the Rwandan private sector said on condition of anonymity. Trade experts believe that should the political situation in Burundi continue to worsen, it is likely to reduce the market for Rwanda’s exports, and the existing business opportunities. “Our hope is that it does not get out of control, otherwise it will not only hinder cross-border trade but also regional efforts to formalise informal trade along the borders,” said John Bosco Kanyangoga, a regional and international trade expert. By Berna Namata, Moses Havyarimana, Alex Ngarambe and Isaac Khisa.
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