- 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.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.