“We Can’t Eat the Constitution” Transformation and the Socio-Economic Reconstruction of Burundi

"The Republic of Burundi is poised at the helm of a new chapter in its history following the end of a decade of civil war and ethnic division. The country’s astounding progress on the political level has raised expectations that the upcoming democratic elections will mark a shift from discriminatory politics towards an emphasis on social justice. Indeed, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement agreed to by 19 parties in 2000 emphasised the importance of both political and economic reform in order to build a new state and civil society. Nevertheless, this paper argues that little has been done to implement the recommendations of Protocol IV of the agreement which focus on the reconstruction and development of the new state. By offering a ‘progress report’ of the constitutive chapters of Protocol IV, the paper aims to highlight areas of potential conflict that may destabilise the peace-building process in the immediate future. In particular, it details questions surrounding land tenure, the repatriation of refugees, resettlement of internally displaced people, and the status of women in post-war Burundi. The main conclusions of the paper suggest that political change that is not accompanied by transformation of socio-economic power relationships will only mask the underlying root causes of conflict."