Burundi and its development partners: navigating the turbulent tides of governance setbacks

Nadia Molenaers, Gervais Rufyikiri and Stef Vandeginste
IOB Working Paper 2017.14


Between the first post-conflict elections (2005) and the crisis that was occasioned by the 2015 electoral process, Burundi underwent evolutions of both remarkable progress and substantial setbacks in different dimensions of governance. For international development partners it was challenging to deal with these subsequent – and partly parallel - ups and downs. They used financial and non-financial means to incentivise, signal, constrain and sanction the Burundian government into desirable policies and actions. We discern three patterns in donor behavior. Immediately after the transition, donors heavily inclined towards optimism with a large margin of tolerance for perceived ad hoc setbacks (here referred to as ‘good enough governance’ strategy). When setbacks however became systematic, donors increasingly expressed unease and used various means to voice their concerns: statements, policy and political dialogue, aid as a carrot and stick. Finally, when setbacks evolved into a crisis, donors started sanctioning, albeit in uncoordinated and sometimes contradicting manners.

Keywords: Burundi; aid; governance; political dialogue

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