As the general elections in Burundi approach, tension is rising amongst young people, and in particular those who are members of different political parties. The elections are due to take place between May and June 2010.

Since 2009, these tensions have been manifested in a perhaps surprising place; at sporting events. Some youth groups have organised sporting events and rallies as a way to demonstate their force and to intimidate those who do not share their political views.

This phenomenon is has been seen in the northern part of Burundi (Muyinga), where violent clashes have been reported these last months between youth groups affiliated to the ruling CNDD-FDD party on one side and members of UPD and FRODEBU, two of the main opposition parties on the other.

The situation is alarming as it undermines the peaceful cohabitation which was being restored in Burundi. There is a certain mistrust and lack of solidarity amongst some people in the rural areas, where we have seen divides along political lines and acts of intimidation and even violence.

During a study circle held on 22 November 2009, members of Amahoro Youth Club expressed their deep concern over the issue. They called upon the youth to resist to political manipulation and adopt a fair-play and non-violent and democratic participation in the reconstruction of Burundi. They recalled that the same situation happened between 1993 and 1996 and victims of such manipulation are primarily young people. The feelings of the participants were summed up by Adelard Kakunze, a member of the Amahoro Youth Club: “As we have already seen the consequences of such manipulation in the past, why does the youth in Burundi seem to remain unconscious of the dangers of these actions?”

Local Correspondent for Burundi, 21 January 2010