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» 28.06.2010 - Burundi failed election completed
» 01.03.2010 - Burundi opposition fields woman candidate for elections
» 11.12.2009 - Burundi faces funding shortfall for elections
» 20.08.2008 - Burundi crisis may jeopardise future stability
» 26.05.2008 - Burundi's rebels sign truce
» 04.04.2008 - Burundi political guru jailed
» 16.11.2007 - Burundi replaces VP
» 23.08.2007 - Burundi leaders hold crisis talks

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Politics | Society

Burundi constitutional referendum successful

afrol News, 28 February - The citizens of Burundi today turned up massively in a referendum over a new constitution that is to end the war and provide normality in the country. The new constitution, if approved, will provide a power sharing model for the Hutu and Tutsi groups in the war-torn country. Burundi has experienced instability and waves of political violence since monarchy was abolished in 1966.

The new Burundian constitution foresees a power balance between the majority Hutu group and the traditional power-holding minority Tutsis. The Hutu and Tutsi groups were defined as two different ethnicities by the Belgian colonial powers despite the fact that they speak the same language and that the two groups rather represent two social layers of a same people.

The Hutus traditionally have been sedentary farmers while the Tutsis have belonged to a cattle-owing aristocracy, which still dominated administration and the armed forces. Since the Belgian colonialists started favouring the Hutu majority in the 1950s, Hutu-Tutsi identities grew stronger and more radical, resulting in several chauvinist regimes, "ethnic" killings and civil wars.

During the last 12 years, warfare between a large number of Hutu and Tutsi militias have left an estimated 300,000 deaths in the small Central African country. The conflict in Burundi has been interwoven with the wars in neighbouring Rwanda and eastern Congo Kinshasa, and there has always been a concern that the 1994 Rwandan genocide - killing 900,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus - could be repeated in Burundi.

Today's referendum in Burundi is therefore considered the first step back to stability and normality with a new power sharing model. Despite protests by some Tutsi groups - opposing their group's loss of its traditional monopoly on power - it is widely expected that the war tired population will massively approve the new constitution.

Some 3.1 million Burundian citizens today were called to the ballot boxes to cast their vote. The civilian population, which has been terrorised by different armed groups for years, reportedly has lined up in large queues all over the country to signal their support for the ongoing peace process.

All but one extremist Hutu militia is currently engaged in the transitional government, which unites Hutus and Tutsis in an effort to prepare lasting peace in the country. The transitional government's main aim has been to negotiate a new constitutional model and prepare for democratic elections to hand powers over to a new, popular government. Today's referendum is only the first poll in a series to succeed with the political transition.

If approved, the new constitution foresees that Burundi's President will have a Tutsi Vice-President if he or she is Hutu, and a Hutu Vice-President if he or she is Tutsi. Also the reformed police and armed forces of the country will be constituted by equally large groups of Hutus and Tutsis.

So far, no major incidents have been reported from the Burundian referendum. It also seems clear the ceasefire between the government and the Hutu militia National Liberation Forces (FNL) has been observed, allowing for the referendum to be organised throughout the country.

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