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The East African : March 17th 2014
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK MARCH 15-21,2014 BURUNDI CRISIS a third term for Nkurunziza interferes with organisation of the parties.” The main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, the last rebel commander to lay down arms in 2009, accused President Nkurunziza of seeking to rewrite the constitution for his party’s selfish gain and of behaving increasingly like a dictator. The turmoil in the East African country centres on a row between President Nkurunziza’s Hutu-led CNDDFDD party and its junior coalition partner, the predominantly Tutsi Uprona, over constitutional amendments proposed by the president that could allow him a third term. Mr Rwasa commanded the National Liberation Forces (FNL) during the 1993-2005 civil war that was triggered by the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected president, an ethnic Hutu, after decades of postcolonial Tutsi rule. The FNL was among sev- eral Hutu rebel groups to rise up against the Tutsi-led military government. The biggest was Mr Nkurunziza’s CNDDFDD, which in the early 2000s negotiated an end to rebellion in return for government and military jobs. Mr Nkurunziza was elect- SLIDING INTO ANARCHY? Burundian Civil Society Organisations president Vital Nshirimana has expressed concern over the alleged introduction of harsh laws. Mr Nshirimana claimed that the said laws restricted freedom of assembly and of the media. In June last year, the press law was adopted although it contains provisions ed president by lawmakers in 2005. His army battled the more hardline FNL until it laid down arms in 2009. Mr Rwasa, accused by the government of committing some of the worst atrocities during the conflict, is widely viewed as posing the biggest threat to President Nkurunziza’s leadership at the ballot box. President Nkurunziza has not said he will run again and his supporters say he has stuck by the rules of the con- Such a plan is actually contrary to the Arusha agreement for peace and reconciliation.” Vital Nshirimana, Burundian Civil Society Organisations president that prevent journalists and the media from covering some areas of public life, including the national currency, national unity, national defence and public credit. In October, a law on public meetings, assemblies and demonstrations that requires special permission from authorities for any gathering to take place was also passed. stitution in keeping a careful balance and fully representative government. Mr Rwasa said it was false to depict the current crisis as an ethnically motivated spat between the CNDD-FDD and Uprona, citing widespread discontent among the Hutu community at rampant corruption and sluggish growth. The government does not consider Mr Rwasa the legitimate leader of the FNL, a party that has faced infighting. The opposition say rifts were stoked by the government to dilute the challenge to the ruling party. The crisis blew up after President Nkurunziza sacked his vice-president, prompting Uprona ministers to walk out of the coalition in protest. The President appointed a new deputy and three more ministers from Uprona, as required by an ethnic power- sharing deal in the constitution, but the party rejected their nominations, saying they did not represent the mainstream membership. The head of state wanted to split Uprona and its support base before the election, as it has done with Mr Rwasa’s FNL and other opposition parties, analysts claimed. Mr Rwasa, who teamed up with other opposition leaders to boycott the 2010 presidential election, has said he will run for president in 2015 if he is chosen by FNL members but claimed that the political chaos undermined his hopes for a free and fair vote. After he went into hiding after the 2010 poll, saying he feared for his life, Mr Rwasa only re-emerged last August. He claimed he and colleagues were frequently harassed by state agents and the party was unable to operate freely. 37 Bu≥undi mulls ≥efo≥ms, eyes $1.3b in taxes By LUCAS BARASA The EastAfrican BURUNDI IS still struggling to modernise its tax administration despite having doubled its collections in the past five years. The semi-autonomous revenue authority, Office Burundais des Recettes (OBR), collected $1.2 billion in 2013, a 87.5 per cent growth from $640 million in 2009. The authority targets $1.3 billion this year and has already recorded increments in its January and February earnings compared with a similar period last year. In an interview with The East Af- rican in Bujumbura, OBR Commissioner-General Kieran Homes said the authority was on track and that the feeling of the business community will be known later this month when business tax is paid. OBR has been faced with the challenge of corruption, with some senior top government officials and personalities wanting to evade tax. Some OBR directors were also recently named among the corrupt individuals who evade paying millions of Burundian francs in taxes through smuggling or undervaluation of minerals meant for export. A number of companies owned by said. “It has been very difficult. “I had to be tough because I be- lieve in stronger institutions in Burundi. I had to be tough in making decisions as I am dealing with the government, private sector and donors.” Mr Homes said he also had to re- ject requests by ministers for favours like tax exemptions. OBR has 425 staff out of targeted A Bujumbura-bound lorry near the Rwanda-Burundi border. Picture: File influential personalities have also been accused of evading tax, thus threatening Burundi’s economic wellbeing. Mr Homes however said OBR has zero tolerance to corruption, a position shared by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government. “We have turned corruption pay- ment into tax,” Mr Homes said of the rise in revenue collections. “Fighting corruption is oxygen for OBR. “Corruption benefits only few whereas taxation benefits the many.” New laws on VAT and income tax, tax procedure and computerisation of customs tax administration had also led to increased revenue, the commissioner-general said. He however regretted that that the tax collector still relied on a manual system for domestic tax collection and urged donors to intervene. OBR has been relying on support from TradeMark East Africa but is expected to get more donors from next year, Mr Homes said. “We need donor support,” he said. “The government cannot afford capital cost.” Mr Homes said nine members of staff were dismissed last year for engaging in graft. “It has not been easy for us,” he 700 and Mr Homes said gender and ethnic balance was ensured in recruitment. OBR plans to start publishing names of all registered VAT taxpayers so that the public could report those who do not pay tax. “Before I leave in June, I want to establish a website that is more interactive,” Mr Homes said. Minister for Finance Tabu Ab- dalla Manirakiza said OBR and the country were on right path. He said tax reforms have helped to create a transparent and equitable environment for foreign investment. Mr Manirakiza said he was happy with Transparency International’s (TI) 2012 report, which showed that Burundi was the second least corrupt country in trhe East African Community (EAC) thanks to new anti-corruption initiatives by OBR.
March 10th 2014
March 24th 2014