Co-optation of the Batwa, a divisive issue

The Constitution of the Republic of Burundi promulgated on June 7, 2018 and the Burundian electoral code of 2019 grant 6 places to the Batwa in Parliament by co-optation. However, this question of co-option poses a certain number of problems. For what ? What to do ? Analysis.

February 18, 2021. Pierre Claver Kazihise, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) presents the general report on the 2020 electoral process before the President of the Republic Evariste Ndayishimiye and Parliament. He raises the problem of co-opting parliamentarians from the Twa ethnic group. He asks the competent authorities to resolve this problem, because it creates misunderstandings within Batwa associations.

Deputies and senators of the Twa ethnic group must come from their most representative associations according to the law, but Dr. Kazihise deplores that this representativeness remains very difficult to assess, because all the associations claim to be in compliance with this condition.

What the law says ?

In Burundi, the Batwa are considered a minority. According to a Uniproba (Let’s Unite for the Promotion of the Batwa) census carried out in 2008, the number of Batwa in Burundi is estimated at 78,071, or approximately 1% of the population.

Article 108 of the 2019 electoral code specifies that: “The National Assembly has at least 100 deputies, 60% Hutu and 40% Tutsi, […], the Independent National Electoral Commission also co-opted three deputies of the Twa ethnic group from different regions. The co-optation of deputies from the Twa ethnic group is done on the basis of lists presented by their most representative organizations recognized by the supervisory authority, taking into account the “gender” dimension and geographical distribution. »

Ditto for the senators in paragraph 2 of article 142 of the electoral code: “Three members of the Twa ethnic group co-opted by the Independent National Electoral Commission and coming from different regions”.

Articles 169 and 185 of the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi also address ethnic quotas in Parliament.

Opinions are divergent

“I wonder why they [les Batwa] do not want to join political parties, preferring to create apolitical organizations, but while aspiring to political positions. “, asks Isaac Bakanibona, president and legal representative of the Association for the Consolidation of Peace in Burundi “Acopa-Burundi”.

According to him, the fact that these Batwa come from civil organizations caused misunderstandings in the 2020 electoral process, since the number of their associations is increasing more and more. Some Batwa complain that it is the same figures from the same associations who return. He agrees that co-optation is important, because “it allows all ethnic groups to be represented,” but it should concern those on blocked lists instead of coming from civil organizations. “Don’t be surprised if soon the churches also ask for places in Parliament. “, he quips.

As for Evariste Ndikumana, Twa deputy co-opted in 2010 and 2020, he proposes that 10% be reserved for the Batwa. As for Jean Baptiste, Twa deputy for the Kirundo constituency who legally represents Ujedeco (Union of young Batwa indigenous people for community development), he denounces low blows: “There are several people who are against the fact that the Batwa are represented in Parliament. Some parliamentarians say that we, the Batwa, receive places without struggling like them. »

For him, it is impossible to change anything as long as the Constitution and the electoral code remain the same. “How can a political party put a Twa on the list as long as the Constitution and the electoral code have not yet been revised? Are they ready to revise these two laws?

Dr. Pierre Claver Kazihise, president of the CENI also proposes that the provisions relating to this co-optation be amended to put an end to these situations of disagreement.

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