Power-Sharing, Conflict and Transition in Burundi: Twenty Years of Trial and Error

Stef Vandeginste


For the past twenty years, Burundi has experimented with powersharing as an instrument of political liberalisation, democratisation and conflict resolution. This contribution analyses the different meanings the concept of power-sharing has had throughout Burundi’s recent and extremely violent political transition, in particular during the lengthy peace process. It shows how national and international actors have found inspiration in the toolbox of consociationalism to negotiate and design the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi signed in August 2000 and its posttransition Constitution. Power-sharing has been instrumental in achieving the – short-term – objective of war termination. It has also de-ethnicised political competition and reduced the (potentially) destabilising effect of elections. Measured against more ambitious state-building objectives (democracy, rule of law, accountable and effective governance), power-sharing has (so far) not been able to make a difference. Several factors and developments threaten the “survival” of the power-sharing model in Burundi.

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