Burundi - Politics, government, and taxation

Burundi was ruled by a king (mwami) from the 1500s until colonization. European colonial powers Germany (1899-1916) and Belgium (1916-62) forced Burundians to cultivate crops for European consumption (such as coffee and tea), to act as porters and laborers, and to pay taxes. When Burundi achieved independence in 1962, Belgium still influenced its government and politics. When legislative elections were held in 1961, a Tutsi-dominated party which included Hutus, the Parti de l'Unité et du Progrés National du Burundi (UPRONA), won 80 percent of the votes. Prince Louis Rwagasore was appointed Prime Minister, but at the end of 1961 Rwagasore was assassinated in a plot by the Belgian-sponsored Hutu party, the Parti du Peuple (PDC).

Burundi's main political parties are the multiethnic Front pour la démocratie au Burundi (FRODEBU), UPRONA, and the militant Hutu party Parti de la libération du peuple hutu (PALIPEHUTU). The army is also of central importance in Burundi's politics, as are militia groups, which are often linked to political parties. After an extensive period of military rule, Melchior Ndadaye of FRODEBU won 1993 multiparty elections with 65 percent of the vote. However, after only a few months President Ndadaye was assassinated by the Tutsi-dominated military. This led to a series of large-scale massacres of both Hutu and Tutsi by various militias and the army.

In 1996 Major Pierre Buyoya became president after a military coup. In 1998 Buyoya ushered in a new constitution, which gave executive powers to an elected president and gave legislative power to the 812-member elected Assembly. He led the creation of a 10-year power sharing agreement in 2000, which brought together many of Burundi's political and military organizations. However, a full compromise remained elusive despite mediation and financial inducements by the European Union and the United States. Over 300,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed between 1993 and 2000. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced, and over 0.5 million Hutus were forcibly relocated by the army to live in camps.

The revenue collecting capabilities of the Burundian government are minimal. Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product amounted to only 12.7 percent in 1999, falling from a 1990 level of 16.3 percent. The IMF estimates that in 1998, taxes on goods and services amounted to 43.2 percent of government revenue, tax on international trade was 28.6 percent, and taxes on income and profits constituted 22.6 percent. The most important individual source of revenue was taxes on the brewing industry, which provided around 40 percent of total government tax receipts. Petroleum provided around 8 percent of indirect taxes .

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