A year after President Evariste Ndayishimiye took over from the late Pierre Nkurunziza, a wind of change is sweeping across Burundi.
For a country that was on the brink of a civil war just a few years ago, a lot has changed for the better.
President Ndayishimiye has reversed some of his predecessor’s isolationist policies that saw the country become something of a pariah, a move that has endeared him to his peers in the East African Community.
On May 25, the country was elected to chair the bureau of the United Nations Permanent Advisory Committee on Security Issues in Central Africa (UNSAC), during the committee’s three-day 51st meeting in Bujumbura, coming on the heels of the withdrawal of the country from the agenda of the Security Council, signalling a welcome embrace by the United Nations.
Since his election in May 2020, Ndayishimiye, a former army general, has made significant changes in the country’s relations with the EAC and international partners.
He has sought to restore peace in the country and initiated talks to revive good relations with neighbours, especially Rwanda.
Prof Amukowa Anangwe, a Kenyan political scientist and former Cabinet minister, says Burundi is once again on a good economic trajectory, “fully observing Covid-19 measures that had once been ignored, participating in the EAC integration agenda, and mending fences with the international community.”
No Burundian president has attended the EAC Heads of State Summits since the political crisis of 2015 after a section of the military attempted a coup on Nkurunziza, while he was attending peace talks in Dar es Salaam.
But President Ndayishimiye attended a virtual forum on February 27, 2021.
“On the occasion of this 21st summit of the EAC Heads of State, in which I am taking part for the first time, I am delighted to be with you, my fellow heads of state, in order to contribute to guiding the Community as an investment agenda,” said President Ndayishimiye. “Our community needs the contribution of each and every one to make sure that projects and programmes of the EAC which concern political, social and economic are fully implemented in order to achieve tangible results."
Ndayishimiye made his first state visit to Kenya on May 31. He is expected to remain in the country until June 1, as the chief guest at Kenya’s Madaraka Day celebrations in the lakeside city of Kisumu, according to a statement from State House, Nairobi, released on Thursday.
“Kenya and Burundi co-operate in various areas of socioeconomic and political development anchored on the Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation signed in May 2008, as the main framework of bilateral co-operation,” reads the statement.
President Ndayishimiye’s visit to Kenya will be his fifth outing since he assumed office. His first visit was on September 19, 2020, when he met with the late Tanzanian president John Pombe Magufuli in Kigoma, Tanzania.
In November 2020, he made a five-day state visit to Equatorial Guinea and this year he has travelled to Congo Brazzaville and Uganda.
His visit to Tanzania resulted in the two countries agreeing to build a railway to transport minerals from the capital Gitega to the port city of Dar es Salaam. The line is expected to run from Uvinza in western Tanzania to Gitega through Musongati, where the largest deposits of nickel are found.
The European Union and US imposed sanctions on Nkurunziza’s government after reports of human rights violations were documented by the UN.
The country is steadily getting back to international diplomacy and Burundi’s Foreign Affairs minister Albert Shingiro quoted saying that the withdrawal of the country from the agenda of the Security Council, lifting of sanctions by certain international organisations, the resumption of dialogue with the EU, the thawing of relations with regional countries have put Gitega back on the right track.
Political dialogue with the EU resumed after almost six years and are at an advanced stage towards normalisation of relations.