Burundians are scheduled to go to the polls on May 20th. But an ongoing government-led campaign of repression, a history of mass killings, and complications from the global coronavirus pandemic threaten to exacerbate atrocity risk surrounding the elections.
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Last month, we shared the results of our Early Warning Project’s latest Statistical Risk Assessment (SRA)—a list of 163 countries ranked by their risk for onset of state-led mass killing. As we’ve taken our results on the road, we’ve found that we are commonly asked some variation of this question: This is all very interesting, but what am I supposed to do with email@example.com
In April 26, Pierre Nkurunziza, the president of Burundi since 2005, announced he would run for a third term in upcoming elections, prompting protests and violence in Bujumbura, the country’s capital. Civil society actors and opposition advocates argue that Nkurunziza and his political party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), have violated the terms of the 2005 Arusha Accords, which ended a decades-long civil war that saw over 300,000 civilian deaths.
Human rights groups and the United Nations have been warning that Burundi’s elections in 2015 could spark a genocide, but the Early Warning Project’s risk assessments so far indicate that Burundi is not at especially high risk of state-led mass killing. To explore this discrepancy, I asked a handful of experts for their views on this case. While all of the sources I interviewed agreed that the UN was right to be concerned, they disagreed on how severe the risk is and how a new episode of state-led mass killing might come about.
In a little over five months, on June 28, 2010, Burundi will vote in presidential elections that will test the strength and endurance of the nation's fledgling peace process. Unlike the 2005 election, this one will be a direct election by all voters, not by parliament. The elections come as a significant marker for this country that -- once known for violence -- now rarely reaches the headlines.