Burundi: one (small) step forward, one (pretty big) step back

On Thursday, Burundi took a step towards forming a much-needed national unity government, to try to heal the rift that exists over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office (which, of course, he won, in part because everybody else boycotted the election). Agathon Rwasa, the leader of one of Burundi’s opposition parties, accepted a position as deputy speaker of Burundi’s parliament, a move that could very likely splinter his coalition but that also, as I said, offers at least the possibility of a national unity government being formed to peacefully resolve Burundi’s current crisis.

At the same time, however, a group of opposition figures met in Ethiopia to form a government-in-exile opposed to Nkurunziza. It’s unclear whether or how that new group will impact the situation in Burundi. It’s pretty clear, though, that today’s drive-by shooting murder of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, a close Nkurunziza ally, is probably going to make things worse. Nshimirimana has been responsible for the government’s violent repression of protests against Nkurunziza’s third term, so he’s not an innocent snowflake here, but it’s hard to envision a scenario under which his murder leads to a reduction in violence.

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