Burundi watchers will not be surprised by this assessment. Tensions have been high in the country since President Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term – indeed, the conditions for an all-out conflict in Burundi have been ripening for months.
Since April, this is the third time regional leaders from neighboring countries and regional organizations meet to discuss the situation in Burundi. During the first one of these events, mid-May, President Nkurunziza was almost deposed while attending the meeting abroad. Since then, Nkurunziza has not left the country, missing the second conference in late May. He also will not be attending this third one, however, the Burundian opposition will be making a show of force, likely pleading with regional partners to increase pressure on Nkurunziza. Indeed, there is a lot at stake, not just for Burundi. As mentioned above, the crisis has led nearly 150,000 people to flee their country, and seek refuge in neighboring countries. As a result, Tanzania is contending with a cholera outbreak, and creating hardship for communities near the border in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC.
In Dar-es-Salaam, regional leaders will once again attempt to find a solution to the crisis. However, given that their three main recommendations from the previous meeting were not adopted by the Burundian government – delay elections, disarm militias, and establish a dialogue with the opposition – have not been respected, it will be interesting to see whether a more stern tone is adopted. How much longer can Nkurunziza ignore his partners’ pleas?
Either way, Burundi is headed into uncharted territory. With a highly contentious election around the corner – which will, regardless of the results, make for some very unhappy losers – the country is at a risky cross-roads.