Burundi – Presidential Term Limits

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Reports suggest the President is taking steps to ensure an extension to his rule, prompting concerns of further violence. 

President Pierre Nkurunzia has been pushing a political agenda to remove a key Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement that limits Presidential terms, which has helped to end 12 years of civil war.

Nkurunziza is also stalling on the East African Community (EAC)-led mediation process, which started in July 2015 but has yet to make any significant progress. The Burundian government has boycotted talks stating that some stakeholders should be excluded.

According to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) entitled ‘the African Union and the Burundi Crisis: Ambition versus Realitythe government is seeking to change term limits, possibly by December.

Justin Nzoyisaba, chairman of the Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission, was quoted in August as saying the views so far collected across the country favoured the removal of term limits.

President Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term sparked civil unrest that has caused the death of hundreds and forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. The ICG says the government has realised that keeping casualties to a minimum limits scrutiny.

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President Nkurunziza with AMISOM commander General Silas Ntigurirwa in 2014 – CC

Meanwhile the United Nations (UN) envoy on conflict convention said that the international community and Burundi would find common ground for the deployment of UN police officers through continued dialogue.

“Our discussions were constructive and I’m confident that with continuous engagement and political will, we will find common ground as a basis for moving forward with the implementation of the resolution,” said Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Conflict Prevention.

UN Security Council Resolution 2303, adopted on July 29th 2016, authorised up to 228 UN police officers to be deployed in the capital Bujumbura and throughout Burundi for one year.

Benomar said he had held various meetings with the Government and other stakeholders, as well as with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the EAC-led dialogue.

However the Burundian authorities have rejected Benomar as a proposed mediator and they sent a letter to the UN to ask for his replacement.

On November 26th thousands of demonstrators marched in Bujumbura to protest against Belgium and the UN Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into human rights violations. The protestors were reportedly singing songs in support of President Nkurunziza.

The situation is ongoing and many commentators have expressed concern that the extension to term limits and the continued boycott of international mediation will prompt further violence and state repression.

(The East African 5/11; PANA, New York 9/11; RFI 15, 27/11)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

BURUNDI: ICC Withdrawal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21182B–21183A

BURUNDI: Looming Risk of Genocide
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21146A–21146B

BURUNDI: UN Police Deployment
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21108A–21108C

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East Africa: Investments in Rail Infrastructure

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Members of the East African Community pledge to use Central and Northern Transport Corridors to unlock the region’s economic potential

East African Community (EAC) member states, Tanzania, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda are hoping to implement joint infrastructure projects to further boost regional trade and growth. Tanzanian President and Chairman of the EAC, Jakaya Kikwete is quoted by Tanzania Daily News as saying “it is my wish to see the Northern and Central Corridors infrastructure to be one in the future”.

Following a Northern & Central Corridor Investors Forum in Dar es Salaam on March 25th, EAC members launched the construction of the US$14.2 billion East African Central Corridor Railway. According to Transport Minister Samuel Sitta the project will be “the single biggest project ever to be implemented by the Tanzanian government since our countries independence”, report Reuters.

The project will involve constructing 2561km of standard gauge railway to connect Dar es Salaam to landlocked neighbours of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia and eastern DR Congo,  costing around $7.6bn, while two other additional lines will be constructed to serve mining regions in the southern and northern Tanzania, at a cost of around $6.6bn. The main line will contain spur lines that will connect to Kigali, Rwanda, Bjumbura in Burundi, and Masaka, Uganda, explain Tanzania News Daily.

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Landlocked countries in Africa are reliant on rail and road links through to main coastal economic and commercial hubs; in East Africa particularly Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya. In direct competition to the Tanzanian railway plans, Kenya is also constructing a standard gauge railway, funded by China Road and Bridge Corporation, from Mombasa-Nairobi to Kampala.

The Kenyan government has claimed the new railway from Mombasa to the Great Lakes region will boost economic growth by 1.5% per year, report Ventures Africa, eventually extending to replace the ageing colonial-era narrow gauge railway that reaches towards DR-Congo. The initial 609 km section from Mombasa to Nairobi has been started with a finish date set for 2017.

China has agreed to finance part of a $3.2 billion Uganda rail plan, report East Africa Business Week; construction of the Eastern and Northern Standard Gauge Railway that will connect Kampala, Malaba on the Kenyan border and Nimule in South Sudan, while joining the wider standard gauge network, giving fruitful economic benefits from links to Kenya’s coastal commercial hub.

AFKInsider comment that Kenya and Tanzania are vying to be the preferred regional transport hub and with recent oil and gas discoveries in the region, the area has become a hive of exploration. Transport minister Sitta said “We are in competition at all times with the Mombasa port…its a competitive business so we need to be efficient”.

Both countries are also planning to invest in new port projects at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Lamu in Kenya, report Tanzania Daily News. The Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) project was first proposed in the 1970s to provide Sudan and Ethiopia access to the Indian ocean. In 2013 China Communications Construction Co Ltd won the US$445 million contract for the first three berths of the port and according to the Kenyan government the LAPSSET project is nearing advanced stages. The project includes an economic corridor comprised of road networks, oil pipelines, three airports and a standard gauge railway network from Lamu to Juba, South Sudan and Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia (shown on map below).

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The majority of financing for large infrastructure projects across East Africa, and large parts of the African continent as a whole, is stemming from China, who have recently signed agreements with the African Union (AU) for a network of high-speed rail links in the next few decades.

Chinese companies and banks are financing a variety of railway projects across the region  including the Addis-Ababa Light Rail Transit System in Ethiopia. In 2014 China Railway 20 Bureau Group Corporation completed the reconstruction of the Benguela railway connecting Angola, Zambia and south-eastern DR Congo, and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is constructing the $4 billion, 740-km electric railway that connects Addis Ababa and Djibouti.

Open database, Aid Data, provide a useful visual mapping of Chinese-financed projects in Africa, available here.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Roads & Railways: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp. 20715B-20716A

Ports & Shipping: Tanzania
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.10, Pp. 20607A-20608A

Roads & Railways: Uganda
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.8, Pp.20536B-20537C

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Africa’s illicit financial flows

Illicit Financial Flows mean that Africa is the world’s biggest net creditor. The United Nations says these outflows are at least double the amount of development assistance the continent receives. A new panel will try and address the massive resource leakage – some say $50 billion a year, some much more.

The ‘High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa’, established by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) was inaugurated on February 18th at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

The multinational panel is to be chaired by Thabo Mbeki, ex-President of South Africa, with Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of ECA as his deputy.  The members include human rights lawyers, businessmen, financiers and politicians from across Africa and beyond.

In the communiqué issued by the panel after the first working session, they agreed to come up with a communication strategy which will include a dedicated website on illicit financial outflows from Africa.

A technical committee is also going to delve further into the nature, scope, dimensions and impact on development of illicit financial flows and to feed this information through to the panel.

These outflows drain foreign exchange reserves, reduce tax collection, dwindle investment inflows and worsen poverty. The methods and channels are many and varied including tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions, over-invoicing, under-pricing, and different money laundering strategies.

The combination of a heavy debt burden and sustained illicit outflows of capital make Africa the world’s largest net creditor.

In the past four decades, Africa has lost US$1.8 trn through intricate scams involving western companies and local officials. The looting continues up to today and benefits the west while depriving Africa of development funds, says the Southern Times.

Its report – ‘The Trillion Dollar Con’ – looks at multinational corporations (MNCs) and their routine tax evasion, mis-invoicing, import over-pricing and under-pricing of exports.

Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) also shows how the West is the ultimate beneficiary of laundered money from Africa and Asia.

Africa registered 32.5 % growth in illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009 through trade mis-pricing.

GFI says falsified pricing is facilitated by tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in offshore financial centres that have created space for billions of dollars in unseen and unrecorded proceeds to be moved across borders. The bulk of MNCs have corporate headquarters offshore and through “tax planning” devise ways to reduce or even totally avoid corporate taxes.

The UK hosts more than half of the world’s tax havens, such as those that come under the British Crown Dependencies (Jersey), British Overseas Territories (Cayman Islands, BVI, Bermuda) and members of the Commonwealth.

A UN paper titled “Tackling Ilfflicit Capital Flows for Economic Transformation“, presented to the African Union  in May 2011, reveals the top five African losers as Nigeria (US$89.5bn), Egypt (US$70.5bn), Algeria (US$25.7bn), Morocco (US$25bn) and South Africa (US$ 24.9bn).”Illicit financial outflows from the entire region (Africa) outpace official development assistance coming into the region at a ratio of at least 2:1,” the report says.

GFI estimates Africa’s annual outflows at $30bn but the African Union’s estimates are around $148bn, nearly four times the foreign aid received.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2009 estimated the continent’s accumulated stock of capital flight between 1970 and 2004 at around US$607bn, almost three times the continent’s external debt over that period. UNCTAD’s report cited the example of Sierra Leone where capital flight was 425 % of the country’s GDP in 2004. In the DRCongo and Zimbabwe, capital flight was 344 % of GDP and 312 % in Burundi (2004).

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