Burundi Foreign Policy

Burundi Foreign Policy

Maintaining good foreign policy relations is important for Burundi, as more than half of the budget is dependent on external financiers. The European Union is particularly important as a bilateral partner. As a former colonial power, Belgium supports Burundi intensively.

A United Nations mission set up for Burundi tried to make progress in Burundi’s reconciliation process, although after 2009 – as a major step towards reconciliation and pacification through the participation of the FNL rebel groups in the government – there was only a fragile peace. The UN mandate has already been extended several times – most recently until December 2014. After the closure, all responsibilities were transferred to UNDAF (Plan Cadre d´Assistance des Nations Unies au Burundi).

According to estatelearning, Burundi has made a name for itself in terms of security policy by employing 2,500 soldiers for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) posed. Burundi is also assuming international responsibility, despite considerable internal problems, by sending police forces to other peace missions. 2007 Burundi, the East African Community (EAC) joined what economic development is significant and is aimed at strengthening political relations with neighboring countries. The EAC also plays a special role in Burundi’s current political crisis by trying to mediate. Similarly, ICGLR and the AU active.

The Burundian military has been supporting Kenya in fighting the Somali militant al-Shabaab movement since 2011. Since the attacks in Uganda and Kenya in 2013, Burundi has also feared retaliation by the group in Bujumbura. Like several other East African countries, Burundi also sent soldiers to the Central African Republic at the end of 2013. Relations with the People’s Republic of China have been intensifying in recent years.

The relations with Germany are good. The progress made in the reconciliation process through political peace negotiations up to 2004 initially led Germany to stop its development cooperation activities resumed in 2004. However, Germany reacted to the country’s problems in 2015 by cutting its spending on Burundi. The relationship is still strained in 2020 – but Germany continues to support development measures that are directly aimed at the population. Development cooperation will depend heavily on future political developments. Burundi is demanding reparation payments from Germany for the colonial era in 2020. The German government is reacting cautiously here. However, Germany generally enjoys a good reputation as a partner in global economic cooperation and as a mediator in the peace process. The short colonial period (1888-1916) created a positive image of Germans and Germany for most Burundians.

Burundi Foreign Policy

Relations with neighboring states

Regionally, since the peace process in 2009, Burundi has made particular efforts to maintain good political relations with the neighboring countries Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, after the so-called African World War broke out at the end of the 1990’s, which was mainly about raw material conflicts. In the Great Lakes conflict, however, disagreements flare up again and again when it comes to raw material issues, the refugee problem, especially with Tanzania or Rwanda, or political and economic cooperation. The international conference of the Great Lakes is also supposed to mediate in questions of raw material rights and smuggling reduction.

The conflict-ridden situation of Burundi since 2015 also worries the country’s immediate neighbors. In September 2017, 36 Burundian refugees were murdered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, placing a heavy burden on relations between the two countries.

Relations with Rwanda are also strained due to the people fleeing Burundi. Above all, intellectuals fled to Rwanda (and here preferably to Kigali), while the rural population chose Tanzania as a destination. In April 2018 Rwanda sent more than 1,000 refugees to Burundi back. Armed rebel groups in Rwanda and attacks accused by Kigali Bujumbura have further deteriorated relations between Rwanda and Burundi since July 2018. The main focus was on the MRCD, founded in 2017(Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change; Rwandan Mouvement for Democratic Change), which aimed to overthrow Kagame and apparently still has it and, according to Kigali allegations, operates from Burundi. Burundi, however, accused RwandaTo support rebels – including among the Burundian refugees – whose aim was to overthrow Nkurunziza. But the conflict between Rwanda and Burundi is older. One might think that with the same colonial past, similar population composition and similar language and religious affiliation, there is more similarity between the two peoples. But the story has developed differently in the two countries. Since Kagame became president of Rwanda, he has kept a close eye on the neighboring country. In 2005 he supported Nkurunziza’s election campaign, less driven by the drive to see him as president than by the fact that he was replacing Buyoya. In 2013, Rwanda accused Burundi of harboring the combatants – who had brought down the M23 – and of supporting the FDLR. In 2015, Rwanda condemned the riots in Burundi and attacked Nkurunziza for not listening to his people’s voice. In 2015, Burundi accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels involved in the failed coup. The alleged cooperation between the FDLR and the Imbonerakure Burundi was another stumbling block between the countries. Given a raid in October 2019 of which was founded by exiled Rwandans P5 (a rebel group with Kayumba Nyamwasa) was charged, Rwanda accused Burundi of harboring the perpetrators. In early 2019, Nkurunziza was suspected of providing military support to the rebel group in order to overthrow Kagame.

The continuously tense situation between the two countries was a threat to the stability of East Africa as a whole at the end of 2019. In 2020 – under the new president – the situation did not seem to have improved much. But recently new attempts have been made to get closer. The return of Burundian refugees from Rwanda to their homeland could be a start.

Relations between Burundi and Tanzania are mainly characterized by the refugee situation and trade relations. While trade strengthens relationships, the refugee situation has repeatedly been a cause for dissatisfaction for decades. Tanzania took in around 200,000 Burundian refugees in 2015, but began repatriation in 2019.