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Burundi: Assessing Military Institutional Reforms Post-Arusha  

Astrid Jamar and Gerard Birantamije

Military politics have been entangled with the trajectory of Burundian public institutions, experiences of violence, and the army formation. From 1994 to 2009, the peace process brought together different political parties, security forces, and rebel groups to negotiate ceasefires and major institutional reforms. Adopted in 2000, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement contained some of the most ambitious and sophisticated security reforms. While most literature emphasizes mostly on the Arusha Peace Agreement, 22 agreements were signed by different sets of parties, including political parties and rebel groups during these 15 years of peace meditation. The Arusha Peace Agreement provides for complex security arrangements: (a) a strictly defined role, structure, and mandate of the army and other security forces; (b) sophisticated power-sharing arrangements for both leadership and composition of the army and other security forces; (c) demobilization, disarmament, integration, and training of armed forces; (d) transformation of armed groups into political parties; and (e) ceasefires. The peace talks integrated various armed political groups into Burundian institutions. Responding to four decades of violence and military dictatorship, these reforms of the military and other security forces aimed to disentangle the military from politics. Initially contested, the agreements shaped the reading of the historical contexts that justified these institutional military reforms. Indeed, provisions of these agreements also framed a narrative about violence and imposed fixed interpretations of political mobilization of violence. These imposed interpretations neglected key elements that enabled and, continue to enable, the political use of violence as well as the emergence of new forms of military politics. The main institutional approach adopted to tackle issues of inclusion and to correct imbalances in armed forces was the introduction of power-sharing arrangements based on ethnic dimensions. The formulation and further implementation of ethnic quotas reinforced the binary elements of ethnic identities, rather than promote a more fluid understanding that would appreciate intersecting elements, such as gender, political affiliation, and class and regional dimensions in the undertaking of power, alliance, and relations between executive and military institutions. Security reforms continue to affect the functioning of public institutions, with limited effects for disentangling politics and military.

Article

The Great Lakes in Africa: Regional Politics and Dynamics  

Aymar Nyenyezi Bisoka

The study of politics in the African Great Lakes region is not exempt from the epistemological hardships that often accompany the study of Africa more broadly: dehistoricization and simplification, analogies with the West, a decontextualized miserabilism, and poverty porn. Internal political processes, often visible from a bottom-up perspective, allow us to understand sociopolitical transformation and the meanings that local citizens give to them. In the case of the Great Lakes region, it is a question of understanding the complexity of politics through an articulation of the historical heritage in the longue durée, the strategies adopted by the elites in power, and the national, regional, and international strategies that influence them. It is necessary to abandon an analogic, exotic, culturalist, or romantic point of view that represents a way of understanding African dynamics that still bears the legacy of colonialism. Such an improved framework calls for a rigorous analysis comparing different ideological visions and theories of realities with the reality on the ground in the Great Lakes region.