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The East African : Apr 27th 2015
2 SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT The EastAfrican YEARS OF BURUNDI ACHIEVEMENTS Bu≥undi waits with bated b≥eath as Nku≥unziza keeps count≥y guessing With or without the incumbent’s name on the ballot paper, the country has overachieved in regional peace and security By JULIUS BARIGABA The EastAfrican F or the first time in a decade, there is a sense of foreboding and tension in Burundi capital Bu- jumbura over the forthcoming elections in which it remains unclear whether the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza will contest. Previous elections held in 2005 and 2010 were peaceful, but the tension this time round is due to the fact that the incumbent has served two presidential terms, and is not eligible to run in this year’s election, while his supporters argue that in 2005, Nkurunziza was voted by parliament as opposed to the constitutional provision that clearly limits to two terms precedents elected in a general election. But with or without President Nkurunziza’s name on the ballot paper for the June 2015 election, Burundi has overachieved especially in the area of regional peace and security. Its army contributes the second biggest contingent of six battalions to the African Union peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Only Uganda, with seven battalions, has more troops in Amisom. Besides Somalia, Burundi also deployed one battalion of 850 troops in Central African Republic in 2013, and for a young, modestly-funded and equipped army — only formed in 2005 when the country emerged from 10 years of civil war — this army is punching way above its weight. Domestically, Burundi has sustained a fairly stable power sharing regime and also done well in other areas of governance, infrastructure (mainly roads network), healthcare and education by providing free basic education and free healthcare services for the country’s poor. Indeed, after a decade of peace and stability, Burundi has finally been struck off the list of countries that are in post-conflict status, but the country now embarks on an even bigger chapter — the quest for economic and social transformation — to haul the majority of its population out of high levels of poverty. On December 12, 2014, United Nations Deputy Secretary-Gen- April 25- May 1, 2015 nearly $400 million spent on these in a space of eight years, but for a country still hungry for more investments, more funding for infrastructure development is needed. Especially needed is invest- ment in energy infrastructure in order to generate cheaper hydropower electricity as one of the main incentives that the country requires before investors can flock here. Burundi is East Africa’s smallest economy. For all its endeavours, how- ever, Burundi remains the region’s little brother often harassed and dwarfed by the Anglophone- leaning countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. For instance, Burundi has failed to apply itself and assert its sovereignty, and force the East African Community to recognise French as one of the official Community languages. Because of this, Bujumbura has had to spend money on an English language enhancement programme under the Ministry of East African Community Affairs in order to get its officials to learn the language and to fully integrate into EAC. But football-loving President President Pierre Nkurunzinza of Burundi. Right: Road construction has been a priority of the government. Picture: File/ Courtesy eral for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, flew to Bujumbura to symbolically mark the closure of the United Nations Office in Burundi by lowering the UN flag. Hence, one of the points Presi- dent Nkurunziza has scored for Burundi in the eyes of the international community, is seeing the country graduate from postconflict to normal country status and now development-oriented. With this categorisation, the leadership in Bujumbura is convinced that the country can not only attract more investments but also exploit its existing resources to wade out of the bog of poverty that has curtailed its transformation — more than two-thirds of Burundi’s estimated 10 million people live in poverty. This year however, business- people are pessimistic that business is slow and that the economy may slow down somewhat due to the lack of fuel supplies in the country and that the economy will be hit by the uncertainty surrounding the general election at a glance Political stability: Profound changes and peaceful elections in 2005 and 2010 Growth: Annual economic growth rate averaging 4-5 per cent for the past three years GDP: 2.5 billion (2012 World Bank estimate) GDP per capita/purchasing power parity: $252 GDP composition/sector: Agriculture: 31 per cent Industry: 21.4 per cent Services: 47.7 per cent slated for June. But with the UN now recog- nising Burundi as a normal and development-oriented country, government officials are optimistic that the election will go smoothly and the trend of investment flows into the country will pick up again to generate more streams of revenue for the government to enable the country fund its budget priorities. This year, the country’s budg- et is just under $1 billion, with slightly under half of this money coming from donors to support government’s priority areas — infrastructure (energy and roads), public health and education. Because of this, government officials are watching foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to see if last year’s record of nearly $265 million can be surpassed. According to data from Bu- rundi’s Investments Promotion Authority (API), the country has grown FDIs 13-fold from a mere $10-20 million that the country averaged before 2009 when API was created, to now $264.8 million as at end of last year. “We are happy that the vi- sion of the president to create API is so far bearing fruits. As you can see more investments are trickling in, and at this rate, there will be more jobs for Burundians, who can earn better and get out of poverty,” says API chief executive officer Antoine Kabura. According to official data, at Agriculture is the primary economic activity least 300 kilometres of roads have been completed (newly built, upgraded or rehabilitated to tarmac/asphalt surface) and Nkurunziza has an interesting — if unorthodox — philosophy revolving around football to inspire Burundians to shrug off their inferiority complex, embrace the integration of the East African Community and tap from opportunities of an integrated market. His view is that if each Burundian exploits their abilities to the fullest, the football strategy will pay off. Of course President Nkurun- ziza, regularly turns out for his team of veterans Haleluya FC, sometimes as coach, but more often as a player — he was the team’s top scorer last year. He proposes a game of football, featuring all five partner states’s EAC leaders, complete with roles for each on the field of play. President Nkurunziza de- scribes Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete as a calm and steady leader who would suit a defender’s role, while Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni “has the confidence of a cowboy who stands in one place, sees what is ahead long before anybody else does. Then he pounces to protect and rescue the team. I would play him in goal.” Rwandan leader Paul Kagame should be a midfielder because he works hard, likes to run a lot and would do a lot of planning for the team, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta described as a good deliverer of the ball, who should play on the left flank and cross the ball for forward Nkurunziza to score the goals. It remains to be seen if Burun- di can exploit the 10-year peace dividend, manage the transition and play football — the incumbent president’s favourite sport — to galvanise the population and keep the country on the right growth and FDI trends.
Apr 19th 2015
May 3rd 2015