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Podcast: 'In Chains' Episode 3

In the third episode of our new themed series In Chains, we speak with Dr. Alexis Aronowitz from University College Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands, who is the author of the article, “Regulating business involvement in labor exploitation and human trafficking” published in Journal of Labor and Society.

Brill Publishes Two New Book Series in the Social Sciences

Brill is pleased to announce the addition of two new peer-reviewed book series to its Social Sciences publishing program: International Studies in Maritime Sociology and Studies in Political Economy of Global Labor and Work. The series will be published online and in print.

Brill adds Two New Journals to Its Social Sciences Publishing Program

Two journals, the Journal of Labor and Society (JLSO) and Protest, have been added to Brill’s expanding publishing program in the Social Sciences. Both journals will be published online and in print. Previous volumes of JLSO are already available on Brill’s website, the first issues of Protest are planned for publication in 2021.


Acquisitions Editor


Jason Prevost

V&R unipress

Julia Schwanke


After ten years of civil war, during 2004 Burundi seemed closer than ever to achieving a negotiated political transition. Despite a great deal of resistance, mainly from ‘Tutsi’ parties, considerable progress was made in both the political and military fields. A political dispensation was put in place, thus paving the way for elections in 2005. All but one rebel movement entered into ceasefire agreements and a new national army and police force were being established. The regional role in achieving this progress was considerable. Despite these improved prospects, continuing regional instability and the actions of domestic obstructionists, radical Tutsi movements in particular, still represented a danger for the whole transition process.

The prospect of the 2015 general elections had a significant impact on the functioning and strategies of domestic political actors. 2013 was marked by increased tensions between the two main partners in the coalition government, the dominant party, President Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD, and the smaller UPRONA. These tensions were particularly related to the activities of the National Land Commission and land law reforms, contentious amendments to the Constitution, and Nkurunziza’s eligibility for a third term as president. The return to Burundi of self-proclaimed opposition leader and FNL chairperson Agathon Rwasa did not significantly affect the unity or strategy of the opposition coalition, ADC-Ikibiri. Relations between the government and various social sectors – media, bar association, trade unions, university students, etc. – were marked by animosity. Burundi stepped up its involvement in peacekeeping operations on the African continent. Early in 2013, the UN presence in Burundi was extended for another year, but the government strongly insisted that UN involvement be scaled down from early 2014 onwards. The central market in the capital city Bujumbura was destroyed by a massive accidental fire, which caused tremendous damage to the local economy. After an alarming depreciation in early 2013, the national currency stabilised later in the year.

The coalition government, one of the pillars of Burundi’s power-sharing arrangement, was increasingly dominated by the party of President Pierre Nkurunziza. In the run-up to the 2015 elections, new electoral legislation was adopted. The national electoral commission (ceni) was strongly challenged by the opposition parties. Tensions increased within the dominant party around Nkurunziza’s alleged third term presidential ambitions. The number of breaches of security was on the rise. The government’s human rights record was negatively affected by some internationally very visible cases. A truth and reconciliation commission was established. Relations with the un and with neighbouring Rwanda became increasingly tense. Students at the University of Burundi went on strike on several occasions. Some efforts were made to diversify Burundi’s economy.

The year was marked by a severe political, security and humanitarian crisis. The nomination of incumbent President Nkurunziza by his party, the ‘Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces de Défense de la Démocratie’ (cndd-fdd), and his re-election for a third term stood at the heart of the crisis, which split the party and destabilised state institutions. Popular demonstrations culminated in a failed coup d’etat attempt in May. These events were met with severe repression, and hundreds of civilians were executed, disappeared and/or tortured. Over 200,000 people fled to neighbouring countries. International mediation efforts were stepped up but failed to produce a meaningful result. Two new rebel movements announced an armed struggle to topple the Nkurunziza government. The crisis negatively affected Burundi’s relations with most of its international partners, several of which imposed individual and/or aid sanctions. The political crisis also had a major impact on Burundi’s economy and on fiscal revenue.

The year was marked by a continued political crisis in the aftermath of the 2015 elections. The dominant party, the cndd-fdd, underwent restructuring in order to restore its internal coherence and, at the same, consolidate its control over state institutions. Opposition parties remained divided. Despite declarations by some armed movements, there was no significant military insurgent activity. A political dialogue took place both inside the country and under the mediation of the eac. Aid sanctions were imposed by a number of traditional development partners, including the eu. This gave rise to considerable diplomatic tension between Burundi, neighbouring Rwanda and Belgium, the country’s main bilateral aid donor. Burundi’s human rights performance, most notably as a result of the activities of the Imbonerakure cndd-fdd youth wing, was strongly criticised at the international level. Burundi withdrew from the Rome Statute on the icc. At the socio-economic level, the crisis and the aid sanctions negatively affected citizens’ purchasing power.


Compared with the previous two years, 2017 was a transition year for the cndd-fdd government. The violence triggered by President Nkurunziza’s pursuit of a third presidential term in 2015 had significantly scaled down. As Nkurunziza had both contained internal party dissidence and suppressed or side-lined various pockets of civic, political and armed opposition, the government and ruling cndd-fdd elite started looking ahead again. Preparations for the long announced constitutional reform and the 2020 elections were the most notable indications of this shift. This is not to say that the crisis was over. The political landscape remained marked by severe tensions between the cndd-fdd and the various opposition outfits. Political violence, while less intensive, continued to occur. The government had to introduce controversial measures to mitigate the effects of alarming economic conditions. And relations with Rwanda, Belgium, the eu and the un remained fraught with tension.


Developments in Burundi during the year confirmed the trend that had set in during the previous year. Navigating both domestic and external pressures related to the aftermath of the 2015 crisis, the ruling ‘Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie-Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie’ (cndd-fdd) managed to further consolidate its domination and control over the domestic political field. President Pierre Nkurunziza and his party offensively started preparing the field of play for the 2020 elections, and the party displayed its capacity to mobilise and contain dissent in the run-up to the year’s most important event, the constitutional referendum in May. Other political parties and actors also started manoeuvring in view of approaching elections but were forced to adapt to the rules set out by the government and the cndd-fdd. While in general, Burundi remained relatively stable, several violent incidents continued to occur, and there were frequent reports of human rights abuses and political intimidation by ruling party activists. These reports remained a source of tension in Bujumbura’s relations with the un and major international partners, and whereas the domestic political situation was under control, the economy and international relations were fields that remained fraught with challenges and tensions.

The domestic political scene in 2019 was dominated by speculation over whether President Pierre Nkurunziza would again run for office in the 2020 elections, and if not, who would be the ruling party’s candidate. The ruling ‘Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie – Forces pour la défense de la démocratie’ (cndd-fdd) continued to consolidate its hold on power, while proceeding with transforming the political, social, and economic landscape of the country in line with its vision for the state. The registration of a new party by Agathon Rwasa – considered to be Nkurunziza’s main competitor – constituted a major development in national politics. Meanwhile, most opponents of Nkurunziza’s regime who left Burundi in 2015 remained outside of the country. Mediation initiatives to bring them back, and to overcome the deep political and societal divisions that fuelled the 2015 crisis, remained deadlocked. Burundi’s relations with neighbouring countries, especially Rwanda, and with the international community continued to be tense.

Burundi was marked by three major developments in 2020. Firstly, the 2020 elections were awaited with apprehension by many, both inside and outside the country, especially after the 2015 electoral period had been marked by significant episodes of violence, and considering the uncertainty around the cndd–fdd (Conseil National pour la Défense de la Démocratie – Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie) presidential candidate until just a few months before the elections. However, for the first time in history, the country experienced a peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another, when Évariste Ndayishimiye replaced incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza, both belonging to the cndd–fdd. Secondly, on 8 June, the unexpected death of President Nkurunziza left a significant void in the political system, which had become increasingly centralised around his figure. This void was promptly filled by Ndayishimiye, who situated himself in a position of both continuity and change within the administration system that developed under Nkurunziza. Thirdly, all this happened in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic, towards which the Nkurunziza government adopted an attitude of denial and kept soliciting god’s protection, while Ndayishimiye, after the death of Nkurunziza, faced the virus with more substantial measures.

In the first year of his presidency, Évariste Ndayishimiye introduced several reforms and measures – though limited and at times ambiguous – to improve governance and accountability, and made timid concessions with regard to civil liberties. Human rights violations and several armed attacks, however, continued to cause concern. In a departure from the isolationist foreign policy of his predecessor, Ndayishimiye showed considerable openness to engaging with regional and international bilateral partners and multinational bodies. This markedly improved Burundi’s diplomatic relations and its standing in the international arena after five years of isolation. The repatriation of Burundian refugees who had fled in the context of the 2015 political crisis further accelerated. The weak Burundian economy continued to struggle to recover from the adverse impact of the crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic growth remained low and poverty levels rampant.