Despite the establishment of anti-corruption agencies, Burundi is facing a deepening corruption crisis that jeopardises prospects for lasting peace and stability.
Burundi: A Deepening Corruption Crisis, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, highlights the neopatrimonialist practices that undermine good governance and threaten development. Burundi has seen a gradual politicisation of the civil service and capture of the public sector and its resources by the new elites. In such a small economy, the monopolisation of public and private resources risks derailing the peacebuilding process based on development and economic growth bolstered by efficient state machinery and driven by foreign investment.
“Since Burundi became a republic in 1966, state capture, mostly by the Tutsi elite, has been at the centre of politics”, says Thierry Vircoulon, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director. “With the rise of an ethnically diverse business oligarchy and the end of the civil war, state transformation was essential to the peacebuilding agenda in Burundi”.
When the CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie) rebellion came to power in 2005, it intended not only to transfer political power from the Tutsi to the Hutu but also to improve governance. The authorities launched a series of state reforms but the corruption scandals involving the CNDD-FDD dignitaries and state officials have watered down the hope of a change of governance and a more equitable wealth distribution. The deepening corruption crisis is discrediting post-conflict institutions and is fuelling social and political resentment.
What is needed is a strong political pressure to implement the governance reforms. Now that the anti-corruption agenda has become public policy, civil society should actively pursue its watchdog role and organise mass mobilisation while donors should prioritise good governance. Conducting social audits and an evaluation of the “national integrity system”, the government’s anti-corruption performance, the business climate and privatisation processes would ensure wider involvement and public awareness.
The fight against corruption in Burundi must feature prominently in the dialogue with the donors, especially with the European Union. They must support civil society efforts against corruption by providing training, and link budget support to the implementation of independent institutional checks and balances and to progress in terms of governance and transparency of the administration.
“In such a divided, small and poor country as Burundi, short-term stability requires political consensus and long-term stability requires economic development”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “In a post-conflict society, failing to do away with the neopatrimonialist state and to promote good governance is tantamount to failing to establish lasting peace and stability”.