Michelle Hough talks to Guy Des Aulniers from Development and Peace
Peace seemed to be within Burundi’s grasp over the past few years, but all this may be threatened as a result of the presidential elections on 28 June.
Opposition candidates have boycotted the elections leaving current President Pierre Nkurunziza as the only one running. They are not running in protest at alleged fraud during local elections in May.
The Canadian member of the Caritas network, Development and Peace has sent a delegation to observe the unfolding of the elections. The delegation is supporting La Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral as well as the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace.
“This is really a crucial moment for Burundi,” says Guy Des Aulniers, responsible for Development and Peace’s Burundi programme. “Burundians want stability and peace to be maintained, but everyone’s fear is that instability will return.”
A number of grenade attacks and three deaths have raised fears of renewed violence. Sandwiched between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, Burundi has only recently gained some semblance of stability following years of conflict in which hundreds of thousands were killed.
“We are here to offer moral support and solidarity. We also offer credibility to the organistaions we support,” says Mr Des Aulniers.
The delegations will choose places outside the capital to observe the elections. Two places they will visit are Rumonge and the Province of Ngozi.
“We will go to these areas just before the elections and we will ask the people if they are free to vote. We will asked if they are afraid to vote and if they have received any threats,” says Mr Des Aulniers.
While Mr Des Aulniers says progress was made during President Nkurunziza’s first mandate, most notably in health and education, he points out that Burundi is still extremely poor and 90 percent of the population live off agriculture.
“People have hopes that this will be improved,” he says.
The outcome of the elections will be crucial to consolidating the peace that has been built in recent years. At the moment, the violence, the alleged fraud in the local elections and the withdrawal of all opposition candidates threaten to cause this peace to crumble.