First Burundi Election Report
David Zarembka's report on the first of the summer's elections in Burundi
I arrived in Burundi on May 26, two days after the first of five scheduled elections in Burundi. This first election for community leaders was supposed to occur on May 19, but was postponed twice due to the difficulty of getting the materials to all the voting stations.
While I was there the election results were announced. There was an amazingly high turnout of registered voters - 92%. The ruling party obtained 64% of the vote even though they lost in the city of Bujumbura and the area surrounding the city. To make up for this they obtained an extremely high 90% plus of the votes in up-country areas. The voting, by the way, was not for a candidate, but for one of the forty-three parties. I have not yet analyzed the implications of voting for a party rather than a candidate, but in an area where parties come and go and have little to distinguish them from each other, I find this “strange.” The second highest party received 14% of the vote.
The most poignant comment that I heard was when I went late in the morning to visit the Friends’ Women’s Association’s Kamenge Clinic. There were no patients. When we asked why, we were told that people were afraid of what would happen in the elections. They were hoarding their money and came to the clinic early in the morning only if they were very sick. In other words, the level of fear of the possibility of renewed violence was uppermost on people’s minds.
The HROC office was a buzz of activity. In addition to the Burundi Election Violence Prevention Program that HROC is conducting in nine communities, HROC also became the lead organization for the Quaker Peace Network (QPN)observers. Nine organizations, eight Burundian Quaker and one Mennonite, had banded together to do election observing in Burundi. They had a total of 235 observers of which 72 were participants in the HROC program. While I was in the office, people continually brought in the five page forms that they had filled detailing their observations. Jess Brown, an intern from Canada, was busy entering all the yes/no/blank data on a spreadsheet. The comments in Kirundi needed to be read and analyzed by the Burundian staff.
The HROC staff participated in the training of all 235 election observers, plus the citizen reporters and the Democracy and Peace groups from each of the nine communities. Adrien Niyongabo, HROC coordinator, mentioned to me that the information that they were receiving from the nine communities where the program had been working for more than a year was far superior to the information received from the other QPN observers who had taken only the basic election observer training. Since they were still processing the considerable amount of information collected, I was unable to get specific conclusions from the QPN observations and in particular the HROC observers. Adrien had been asked to make a public statement for QPN on the election (see the report below in for other observations), but he felt that this was premature and declined.
The next election is the presidential election scheduled for June 28. Below is a brief report from Andrew Peterson, AGLI’s resident analyst for the elections. You can read his on-going blog, All Quiet on the Quaker Front, at http://www.quakerfront.com/.
New webpage: www.aglifpt.org