Burundi constitution provides for ethnic quotas (60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi) which authorities in the country argue is a measure against possibilities for discrimination. Ethnic groups in Burundi include the three main indigenous groups of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.
The quota system must be respected in certain government institutions, including the military. Three seats in each house of the Burundian government are allocated to the Twa.
Meanwhile, since January 2017, foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in Burundi are required to respect ethnic quotas when employing local staff.
However, there is no satisfactory proof worth considering that this quota system has created any form of social and ethnic cohesion. Therefore there is an ongoing debate on whether to scrap this quota arrangement.
The ethnic quota requirement was adopted amidst fears of re-ethnicisation of politics and society, enhanced control on civil society and tense relations between the Burundi government and its aid partners.
While authorities justify the measure as a remedy for decades of discrimination along ethnic lines, an analysis of the legal reform shows that a variety of other motivations and dominant party interests account for its adoption and enforcement.
While the reform mirrors a wider international trend of shrinking civic space, the Burundi case study also shows how a clever discursive strategy may skillfuly divide NGOs and their funding agencies.
Furthermore, the case study reveals the instrumental use of obscurity and ambiguity in terms of the legal wording and enforcement of the ethnic quota requirement.
Emmanuel Sinzohagera, President of the Senate is currently presiding over a process of information gathering on the country’s past with the aim of helping make informed decisions on the future.
For example, controversy still clouds the events of 1972 with no clear or agreed or unanimous position on what to call or define them.
Within the framework of the conferences on the bloody events of 1972, organized by the Senate, its president maintains that the qualification of the large-scale killings perpetrated in the country is up to the Burundians themselves. According to him, this is not the responsibility of the United Nations.
Unlike some intellectuals and other personalities who proclaim that it is the United Nations that must qualify the large-scale killings that have plagued this country, Sinzohagera, President of the Senate believes that it is rather the responsibility of the Burundians themselves. – even to qualify these crimes.
According to him, it is not Germany, Belgium, as colonial powers or even less the international community that have this latitude. “This is primarily the responsibility of the Burundians. The fate of our motherland is ours. It is our duty to qualify what happened in 1972 “, insists Sinzohagera.
“The children and grandchildren of President Michel Micombero must not be victims of his actions or the bloody events of 1972. They are innocent just like the descendants of those who were victims of the killings of 1972 called ‘Abamenja’ ‘, the rebels. This ignominy must not stick to their skin like a curse when they have nothing to do with it “, He said.
“We need to know the truth in order to be reconciled and the objective is not to unearth the bloody past and sow discord, but the ultimate goal is to heal the wounded Burundians so that our children do not inherit these evils. that our dear homeland has known, ”he said.
“Any testimony on our dark past is welcome”
“That the skeptics are reassured, all the cyclical crises which mourned our country will be explored and conferences and debates will be organized so that the truth is known”, says the Senate President.
The basis of all reconciliation, he insists, is the truth, the whole truth. Sinzohagera, calls on all personalities, all witnesses of all ethnicities to give their versions of the facts, without passion.
“It is not the only ex-president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, a Hutu, who has just given lectures on the events of 1972 under the aegis of the Senate who can shed all the light, that there are Tutsi also for presentations, they are welcome. Besides, former President Ntibantunganya does not tell us what he reads, “he called.
According to him, the Senate must not be misunderstood or misinterpreted on its objectives with these conferences. “The media must deliver the real message on the bloody events that have grieved this country.”
The Senate President Sinzohagera insists on clarifying the framework of his proceedings. It is under the terms of article 289 of the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi requiring the Senate to give its assessment of ethnic quotas and to see to what extent to remove them or not from 2025, that this institution intends to explore all the contours of the ethnic question and the inter-ethnic violence that has plagued this country.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, to forget, to put a cross on our ” so-called ethnic groups ” without knowing the truth about the cyclical violence that our country has known and which has brought mourning to our country on the basis of these same ethnicities. It would be difficult to move forward and walk towards reconciliation,” noted Sinzohagera.