Burundi: supporting the electoral process
After more than a decade of warfare, Burundi has entrusted the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI in French) with the delicate task of organizing the country’s second peacetime general.
Following on progress achieved in the domain of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants (including men and women from the National Liberation Front), the major challenge now faced by the country this year is the organization of at least five different elections within a five-month period.
Indeed, the period between May and September 2010 will see presidential, parliamentary, senatorial, municipal, and at the local level, community elections.
A large-scale financial operation involving considerable human resources
To ensure the smooth running of the elections scheduled for 2010, CENI has estimated financing of the various electoral processes at $46 million dollars not including security.
Given the sums involved, a joint multi-donor fund totalling $32 million has been set up, to be managed by UNDP. Its role is to collect financial contributions from partners supporting the electoral process.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, the European Union and Egypt have all already contributed to the fund, other partners such as the United States and China having opted for bilateral contributions. CENI continues to seek contributions from other partners by asking them to fulfill their promises to provide funding to finance security, media support, civics and electoral education initiatives, all of which require additional support.
The electoral technical assistance team
UNDP has made available to CENI a technical assistance team, which
will help handle logistics, operations, procurement, administration,
finance and communication.
The project is primarily focused on organizing the countrywide voter census begun on 24 January 2010. Almost 16,000 enumerators and monitors were hired, trained and sent out to the 12,874 voter registration and polling stations located in the 3,302 registration centres. At present, almost 3.5 million people have already registered as voters.
Another immediate project is the establishment of a Data Processing Centre (DPC) in Bujumbura. The computer equipment will enable the voter registration campaign to be up and running as soon as the census is completed.
The DPC will facilitate mass data entry and data correction, electoral database updating, making and producing poll cards and voter lists for elections, and finally exploiting electoral data. The hiring of nearly 1,000 data entry officers is currently under way.
CENI has held several public awareness meetings involving all the national partners, including representatives of civil society, the media, defense and security personnel as well as the main religious denominations present in the country. Training sessions in the area of civics have also been organized. Extra training sessions on vote counting and fraud are also scheduled for members of the Municipal Electoral Commission (CECI in French) and polling officers.
Meanwhile, additional ballot boxes and polling booths have been obtained to complement the stock used during the 2005 elections. Approximately 1 million ID cards were also distributed free of charge throughout the country. Making and distributing voter cards and slips, and preparing electoral lists, are top priorities.
Since the 28 August, 2000 signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, great strides have been made in terms of reinforcing the culture of peace and democracy in Burundi. The 2005 elections were held in a satisfactory manner and represented a major step forward in the democratic and peace-building process. The success of the 2010 electoral process will mark a decisive turn for peace and development in Burundi.