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Mathijs van Leeuwen

This chapter on Burundi explores consecutive efforts to democratize a militarized, authoritarian state that, since decolonization, has experienced episodes of severe ethno-political conflict. Democratization in the early 1990s led to a civil war between a Tutsi-dominated regime and security forces and several Hutu rebel-movements. Under substantial pressure and with support from the international community, notably leaders from the region, a widely praised power-sharing agreement was brokered that initially neutralized ethno-political tensions. However, a decade since the first democratic elections in 2005, the state has turned increasingly authoritarian again. It is evident that institutional engineering has not fundamentally altered neo-patrimonial, authoritarian and violent practices of governance. The failures of political transition might be explained by the limited ambitions of the peace deal that merely aimed to stabilize the country rather than to transform elite politics. Power-sharing has effectively turned into a tool for elites to maintain privileges, in addition to elections and violence. At the local level, substantial peacebuilding interventions struggle with persistent challenges such as the reintegration of returning refugees and displaced persons and the retribution of their former lands, and also massive youth unemployment.