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Burundi: Inflation accelerates as political woes continue

Posted on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 12:27

Burundi’s economy, which relies heavily on coffee and tea exports, has faced increasing pressure since it was thrown into political turmoil last April, when Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term in office. Opponents said another five-year term, which he began in August, violated a peace deal that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005.

Food inflation rose to 11.7 percent in the year to December from 7.2 percent in November, the Institute of Economic Studies and Statistics (ISTEEBU) said in its report. It said the annual average inflation rate was 5.5 percent in 2015 against 4.4 percent in 2014.

The International Monetary Fund said last October that Burundi’s economic output was expected to shrink 7.2 percent in 2015, after growing 4.7 percent in 2014. The IMF then expects it to expand again by 5.2 percent in 2016.

The United Nations estimates that around 440 people have died since the start of the crisis, but says the number could be higher. More than 240,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries.

Burundi’s simmering political crisis, which began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza launched his bid for a third term in office, shows no signs of cooling off. Peace talks between the government and anti-government groups were scheduled to be held on 6 January in Uganda, but the government pulled out saying that no date had been agreed on for the meeting.

Former Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye was sentenced to life in prison on 15 January for his role in a failed coup d’etat in May last year, deepening the country’s divide. Reports of at least nine mass graves in Bujumbura, possibly resulting from clashes in the capital on 11 and 12 December, sparked calls for a full investigation from the international community.

Leaked UN memos paint a dire portrait. “A complete breakdown of law and order is just around the corner,” warned Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, in an internal memo on 15 January.

Al Hussein said the UN’s peacekeeping force is “limited in its ability to address significant violence against civilians, even violence amounting to genocide, where it lacks a political framework and the strategic consent of the host nation and/or the main parties to the conflict.”

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