The ethnic quota system is a fundamental part of the 2000 Arusha Agreement that ended more than a decade of civil war in Burundi, where issues related to power sharing between the ethnic groups remain sensitive in the country.
Burundi former vice president Gaston Sindimwo, now lawmaker from the Tutsi ethnic group, says the ethnic quota system has been the only way bring stability in the East African nation.
“Why does the government want to change the system? We can ask ourselves other questions (like) why does the Senate not want to give us the report about it? The Senate must give us the report so that we can see how we can deal with the ethnic quota system,” said Sindimwo.
The Senate is expected to conduct the evaluation meeting in every province where civil society, religious, political leaders and other interest groups will meet and provide their opinion about the ethnic quota system.
The Senate will then submit a report to the president for a decision on maintaining or scraping the ethnic quota system.
Burundi’s former President Domitien Ndayizeye, who is from the Hutu ethnic group, said that the ethnic quota was designed for a limited period of time.
He says quotas were based on the demographic statistics of the ethnic groups and that these were decisions made for a specific period which could be later be scrapped, adding that the aim was to share positions in all government offices and institutions especially between the ethnic group and promote people working together.
Sharing power meant that Hutus were entitled to fill 60% of the positions in the government offices, legislative assembly and the judiciary while the Tutsi occupied the remaining 40%. In the army, it has been a 50/50 split.
But the decision did not include the Twa ethnic group, who account for less than 1% of the population. The Batwa say that they were marginalized in the whole process including the Arusha Accords.
Alfred Ahingejeje, a former East African legislative assembly law maker from the Twa ethnic group, says the Batwa people must be included.
“We can’t understand why the Hutu are presented by 60% and the Tutsi by 40% It means that we Batwa have a 0%. So, as we are making the evaluation, I think for us it is a good time to make some corrections,” Ahingejeje said.
This is the first time after 23 years after signing the Arusha Accords that the government is evaluating whether to ban or maintain the ethnic quota system.
The survey comes as part of article 289 of the 2018 constitution that states that a period of five years is given to the senate to decide to end or extend the arrangement. After a countrywide evaluation, the president of the chamber is expected to submit a report to the president for consideration.