“There will be winners and losers after the elections, but above all, we as ordinary citizens we want peace and stability” said Isidonie Niyonkuru, street vendor of maize along the side road, expressing her opinion on the forthcoming elections. The opinion of this lady sums up the views of Mabanda people over the tensions and intimidations characterizing the pre-electoral period in this area.
Throughout the country, political propaganda has intensified as we approach the second general elections after the end of the conflict, due to be held in three months. Political parties seem to be determined to win elections at all costs. Defamatory remarks, intimidations, bribes and unrealistic promises are used to convince voters.
Young pupils waiting to be enrolled on electoral list in Mabanda CommuneDonatien Bucumi is a local senior representative of National Liberation Front, the former rebel group now in the government. He told me that during public meetings held by authorities of the province on the 9th and 31st of January, respectively in Kayogoro and Mabanda, they have strongly defamed the NLF, calling its members dogs, and even their leader Rwasa a dog because his name is made of five letters like a dog (“imbwa” in Kirundi). More frighteningly, a grenade was launched at the party’s local office. Fortunately there were no victims.
Returnees are very numerous in Mabanda, and they constitute a privileged target for political parties. Elias Rwajekera and David Ndabahinyuye, local residents of Mabanda, explained me how a policeman and former member of NLF was seriously beaten by CNDD-FDD members while he was watching over a meeting where returnees were promised all kind of aid only if they vote for the ruling party. “I can’t understand how a local leader registers names and ID numbers of voters! This is normally the role of the National Electoral Commission and this fact shows that frauds are being prepared by CNDD-FDD” added Elias Rwajekera.
A massive campaign of ID distribution was launched in December 2009 in the run up to the elections. However, several irregularities were reported and thousands of people couldn’t get this precious document, necessary for voting. Fitina Hussein (pictured left) and Sango Saidi (pictured right) are two active members of Union for Progress and Democracy, an opposition party. They asserted that their members were refused ID card only because they are known as Muslims, and therefore thought not likely to vote for CNDD-FDD.
Members of CNDD-FDD I met there rejected all those accusations, saying that opposition parties are jealous of their popularity and strong influence.
At the moment, around 3,550,665 Burundians have registered on the voters list while an estimated number of 3,510,954 was expected - an overall participation rate of about 102.12%, according to the Head of the National Electoral Commission Pierre Claver Ndayicariye. In Makamba province, around 186,598 people have registered, including 95,411 men and 91,187 women.
The 2010 general elections -communal, presidential, legislative, senatorial then local– are scheduled between May and September and are crucial for the consolidation of the fragile democratic system in place since 2005. Many analysts have recently called for an efficient election violence monitoring system and deployment of a regional police mission. However, given the difficult working relationship between the government and the international community since the expulsion of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General at the end of 2009, there is no evidence that the government will cooperate. A refusal is likely to compromise the outcomes of elections.