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The National Assembly of Burundi



History of the Burundi National Assembly

The Burundi National Assembly is the result of a long process which occurred since September 1961. As it is stated by social dynamics, all societies face social disparities, contradictions and conflict. The Burundian society didn’t make an exception. The country has its conflict, which was clearly defined in the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreements for Burundi in August 28th 2000 as follows: “A conflict which is fundamentally political with ethnic dimensions which are extremely important” and derived from a political fighting class to come to power and /or to be maintained there.

That is why between September 1961 till now, the Burundian Parliament evolved in such a way that on the one hand, the institution was functional notably between 1961 and 1966, 1982 and 1987 and from 1993 up to now. On the other hand, some blank periods due to the military coups marked a great deal the Burundi National Assembly. That is the situation this brief history is going to develop.

The Legislative elections of September 18th 1961

In that period Burundi was still run by a king. The Legislative elections of September 18th 1961 were held within a political competition characterised both by the clannish conflict between Ganwa political families the “BEZI” (ruling family), and the “BATARE”, by the ethnic conflict and the multiparty system. The UPRONA party (Union for the National Progress) won those elections defeating all its competitors behind the Common Front”, a gathering of political parties of opposition to a pro-UPRONA coalition and in league behind PDC (Christian Democratic Party). The UPRONA party won 58 seats on 64 whereas the Common Front got 6 seats. In September 28th 1961, Mr Thaddée SIRYUYUMUSI was elected Speaker of the National Assembly. The King MWAMBUTSA IV was obliged to dissolve the parliament and to call up on the Burundians for anticipated elections on May 10th 1963, because he couldn’t stand a chaotic legislature characterised by governmental instability, ethnic and political divisions among Burundians, and political class and in the young parliament itself.

The legislative elections of May 10th 1965

On May 10th 1965, legislative elections were held in the same way of those of 1961, that is, in a multiparty context and in a boosted political climate. But, in 1965, the UPRONA party became a bipartism of fact. In fact, in these elections, the UPRONA party had no other political party to face except the PP (Party of the People). The difference between the Parliament of 1961 and that of 1965 was that the first one had one House, while the other had to install a bicameral Parliament constituted of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The UPRONA party won again those elections and got the majority of votes both in the National Assembly and in the Senate. On the 33 seats of the National Assembly, the UPRONA party had 21 seats, the P.P, 10 seats and the two remaining seats were for the independent candidates. In the Senate, the UPRONA party got 12 seats on 16, what means 80% of the senators.

Opposing to the former legislature which was dissolved after a very short time, the Parliament of 1965 lasted one year and six months. In fact, that Parliament was dissolved by the military coup of Captain Michel MICOMBERO in November 28th 1966 and from that moment up to 1982, the country had no Parliament.

The legislative elections of October 22nd 1982

Although a putchist ruled the country, on October 22nd 1982 the legislative elections were organised by the 2nd Republic under the reign of Jean Baptist BAGAZA. Unlike all the elections held before, those of 1982 took place when there was only one political party : UPRONA. The aim was to put in place a one House parliament led by Honourable Emile MWOROHA. At the end, 65 deputies were elected. One remarkable fact was the composition of the new parliament which revealed an ethnic character because, on 65 seats, 10 were Hutu. After his military coup, Major Pierre BUYOYA dissolved that National Assembly in September 1987. The next National Assembly will be restored in 1993 after the coming of multipartism and democratic elections.

The legislative elections of June 29th 1993

The multipartism which was introduced in the country called for democratic elections. The presidential elections took place on June 1st 1993 and his Excellency Melchior NDADAYE became the 1st democratically elected President. He competed with Major Pierre BUYOYA and Mr. Pierre-Claver SENDEGEYA.

Then came the legislative elections of June 29th 1993. The newly elected National Assembly was composed of 81 seats, 65 from Sahwanya-Frodebu party (Front for the Democracy in Burundi) and 16 from Uprona party. That National Assembly was managed by a bureau which was composed of a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker.

The Bureau also has a Secretary General and a Deputy Secretary General successively from FRODEBU and from UPRONA and both were elected by their peers and benefited from the same advantages. That legislature had a five year mandate. Unfortunately, the crisis caused by the coup d’Etat of October 21st, 1993 where the President of the Republic, Melchior Ndadaye, the Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Pontien Karibwami and other high personalities were assassinated, didn’t allow the elections to take place. According to the chaotic situation that the country was facing, it was not possible to organize other legislative elections.

In order to safeguard the national interest, the executive and the legislative engaged a dialogue and negotiated a political partnership which led to a Transitional National Assembly. On June 6th 1998 that partnership was materialised by the signature of a constitutional act of Transition and a political platform of a Transitional regime by the President of the Republic and the President of the National Assembly. As a matter of fact, the National Assembly of 1993-1998 was added to all other social and political forces which were not represented. It was within that context that the National Assembly was named the “Transitional National Assembly” which was composed of 121 parliamentarians.

The dialogue and the negotiations were carried on in Arusha, in the United Republic of Tanzania, and at that time, the participation was made of all the concerned parties to the Burundian conflict, some political parties and political armed movements. Thanks to the mediation of their Excellencies the Late President Julius K. Nyerere, the former South African President Nelson Mandela and the South African President Jacob Zuma, all the involved parties in the Burundian conflict signed the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi, in August 28th 2000.

The implementation of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement targeted the shaping of the National Assembly and the Senate of Transition. The Transitional National Assembly was set up on January 4th 2002 and was made of 185 deputies. That number comprised 121 deputies from the former Transitional National Assembly and other deputies who played the role of guaranteeing that the balance recorded in the Burundi Peace and Reconciliation Agreement were added.

With the attendance of the National Council for the Defence of Democracy –Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) in the Transitional National Assembly in compliance to the Decision RCCB 76 of march 11th 2004 of the Constitutional Court, together with other decisions of the same Court that allowed other armed political movements to be represented, the number of deputies increased from 185 up to 220.

It would be worth mentioning that their Excellencies Honourable Pontien KARIBWAMI (June 1993-October 1993), Sylvestre NTIBANTUNGANYA (December 1993-October 1994) were elected as the presidents of the National Assembly, whereas Léonce NGENDAKUMANA (January 1995-2001), and Dr. Jean MINANI (December 1994-January 1995 and January 2002- August 2005) occupied successively that position of the President of the Transitional Assembly of Transition. Pertaining the Senate of Transition, it was led by Honourable Libère BARARUNYERETSE. That Senate was made of 57 members appointed by the President of the Republic and his Vice-President on the basis of political and ethnical parity in conformity with the Arusha Peace Agreement.

The legislative elections of July 2005

On February 28th 2005, the Post-Transitional Constitution was approved by referendum and was promulgated on March 18th 2005, what gave way to free and democratic multiparty elections of June, July and August 2005. At the end of these elections, the period of Transition was over. The current bicameral parliament is shaped in conformity with the Constitution and the Electoral Code. It is made of a National Assembly and a Senate, both elected for a 5 years mandate. On July 4th 2005, the National Assembly was elected through a direct and universal suffrage at the rate of 60% Hutu, 40% of Tutsi. The 30% of women and 3 deputies from the ethnic group of Batwa came in by cooptation (see the constitution and the electoral code).

The share of 100 seats in the National Assembly has been as follows: 59 for CNDD-FDD party, 25 for Sahwanya-FRODEBU, 10 for UPRONA, 4 for CNDD (National Council for the Defence of Democracy), and 2 for MRC-Rurenzangemero (Rehabilitation Movement for the Citizen). Those results didn’t reflect the percentages claimed by the ethnies and the women. The situation was corrected by co-optation in conformity with the Electoral Code. Thus, the share of the 118 seats covering the whole country, that is, 17 constituencies, became as follows: 64 for CNDD-FDD, 30 for FRODEBU, 15 for UPRONA, 4 for CNDD, 2 for MRC-RURENZAGEMERO, and 3 for the BATWA.

Since March 16th 2007, the Chairperson of the National Assembly is his Excellency Honourable Dr Pie NTAVYOHANYUMA. He replaced Honourable Immaculée NAHAYO who was elected Speaker of that Institution on August 16th 2005.The Bureau of the National Assembly is composed of the Speaker and his two Deputy speakers. This Legislature was the first one, since the independence of the country to end its mandate without facing disorders.

The Legislative elections of July 23th 2010

As stated above, since March 18th 2005, Burundi is ruled according to a Constitution that allows each Burundian that meets the required conditions, the right to partake in national life. This same Constitution also states that no one can talk about democracy unless all citizens of the country are adequately represented in the Government as well as in the Parliament. The National Assembly of Burundi took into account the recommended quotas related to region, ethnic groups and gender. In few words, the National Assembly mirrors the composition of the society, and this for the welfare of peace, security reinforcement and long lasting development of the country.

Thus, the legislative elections held on July 23th 2010 were done within laws. 106 seats were filled to represent the whole people in its diversity. In the Article 13 of the Constitution, it is stated that: “ No Burundian will be excluded from the social, economic and political life of the nation because of his race, his spoken language, his religion, his gender or his ethnic group”. Moreover, the Article 164 of the Constitution states that: “The National Assembly is composed of at least one hundred members with 60% of them being Hutu, 40% are Tutsi and including a minimum of 30% of women, all elected by universal suffrage for a five year mandate, and then three members from Batwa ethnic group, co-opted according to the Electoral code”.

If we observe the current composition of the National Assembly, it is obvious that the seats of this Legislature were filled according to the Constitution. Members originate from the 17 constituencies of the country, political and religious diversity have been observed. On 106 deputies, 62 are from Hutu ethnic group, 41 are from Tutsi ethnic group, while three are co-opted from the Batwa ethnic group. As for women who seats in the National Assembly, they are 33, this to mean that they are at the proportion of 31%.

To conclude, the National Assembly has the tradition of respecting the law as well as international conventions on the Elimination of All Kind of Discrimination.

How the National Assembly is structured

The National Assembly is the lower House of the Parliament of Burundi, located in Bujumbura, Burundi. It is elected every five years, on a party-list system with closed-lists so as to restore proportionalities.

1. The Bureau

The Bureau of the National Assembly consists of a Speaker, a First Deputy Speaker and a Second deputy Speaker.

  • The Speaker

The Speaker of the National Assembly presides over all activities. He has the responsibility that fall broadly into managing all duties to ensure that House runs smoothly, and during debate, to ensure that all MPs participate freely while keeping to the rules. He is responsible of appointing Senior Executives and members of his Cabinet. He is also the patron of security inside the National Assembly. In few words, his duties includes constitutional, statutory (in terms of the law), procedural and administrative powers and functions. The current Speaker of the National Assembly is Honourable Pie NTAVYOHANYUMA, who was re-elected for the second time at this position of higher responsibilities.

  • The First Deputy Speaker

The First Deputy Speaker plays the role of initiating and track all projects and issue related to politics, communication, foreign affairs and cooperation. Honourable Mo-Mamo KARERWA is the First Deputy Speaker and she was elected to this position on August 20th 2010.

  • The Second Deputy Speaker

The Second Deputy President is in charge of monitoring all businesses related to legislation, he ensures the smooth running of administrative and legal businesses, the budget execution and the control of the financial services.

Honourable François KABURA occupies this position, and he was elected on August 20th 2010.

2. Committees

As the constitution states, the National Assembly establish a range of Committees with assigned power of triggering the law-making process, to deal with Government businesses in holding the executive account, to report on a matter and make recommendations. Much of the Assembly’s work is therefore done in committees, but the final decisions on all matters are taken by the House. The House always has the final authority.

The National Assembly has eight standing committees led by a President, a Deputy President and a Secretary. The standing Committees are the following:

  • Committee on political and administrative affairs, foreign affairs and the East African Community affairs;
  • Committee on public accounts, finances, economic affairs and planning;
  • Committee on good governance and privatization;
  • Committee on defence and security;
  • Committee on Justice and Human Rights;
  • Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, Environment and Communal Development;
  • Committee on Social affairs, Repatriation, Gender and Fight against AIDS;
  • Committee on Education, Youth, Sports and Recreation, Culture and Communication.

It is worth mentioning that the House may appoint an ad hoc (temporary) Committee when a special task must be done. When the task is complete, the Committee is dissolved.

3. Parliamentary groups

The current Assembly is formed by three political parties and each has its own parliamentary group. MPs from each party elect a Chief who has as responsibilities to keep members informed of party and parliamentary business. The number of seats that a party has in the Assembly is in proportion to the number of voters that voted for it in the elections. Presently, the three parliamentary groups are CNDD-FDD which has the majority of the seats, the UPRONA and Sahwanya-Frodebu Nyakuri Iragi rya Ndadaye.

Besides these groups recognized by the Constitution, there exist also another group constituted by MPs from the minority ethnic group of Batwa.

4. The College of Quaestors

Quaestors are MPs mandated by their peers to look after the financial and administrative interests of the National Assembly. Currently, three queastors were elected as the First Quaestor, the second quaestor and the third quaestor.

5. The Cabinet of the Speaker

As specified above, the speaker has the prerogative of appointing members of his Cabinet. These officers have as duties facilitating the efficient conduct of the work of the Speaker. All the activities are done by the Chief of cabinet, the Chief of Protocol, the Senior Advisors and Advisors. All these officers work in the following domains:
- The Protocol;
- Politics and Diplomacy;
- Economics and Social;
- Press, Communication and Public relations;
- Security;
- Back up to the College of Quaestors.

The cabinet of the Speaker has also the stewardship service as well as the Private Secretariat.

6. The General Administration and Finance Secretariat

This service is managed by the Administrative Secretary General. This latter has the responsibility of ensuring the proper running of that service. He also assists the Bureau and MPs in the fulfilling of their duties. The Administrative Secretary General is on his side assisted by advisors and a Secretariat. That service covers many Departments which are:

  • The Legislative Department This department is headed by a Legislative Director, who is appointed by the Bureau of the National Assembly. He has under his responsibility the following services:
    -  The Legislation and Sitting service;
    -  The Hansard and sound service;
    -  The Committee service;
    -  The Documentation and record Service.
  • The Administration and Finance Department

The chief of this Department is the Administrative and Finance Director and he is too appointed by the Speaker. The Department comprises the following services:
-  The Human Resources Service;
-  The Supply and Stock Service;
-  The Accounting and Budget Service;
-  The Cartage Service;
-  The Building Maintenance and Equipment Service.

It is worth mentioning that in addition to these Departments that fall under the Secretary General’s responsibility, the Central Secretariat and the Computer Service are under his mandate.

The National Assembly and the international cooperation

The National Assembly of Burundi has established inter-parliamentary relations with National Assemblies and many international parliamentary organizations. To cite but very few are:
-  The East African legislative Assembly (EALA);
-  The National Parliaments of the Economic Community of Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL);
-  The National Parliaments of the East African Community State members;
-  The European Parliament;
-  The Parliament of the Kingdom of Belgium;
-  The Parliament of the Republic of France;
-  The Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany;
-  The Parliament of the Great Britain;
-  The Pan-African Parliament;
-  The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU);
-  The Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie;
-  The Association of Europeans Parliamentarians for Africa;
-  The African Parliamentary Union.

Assemblée Nationale du Burundi
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