The Burundian army’s trajectory to professionalization and depoliticization, and back again*
WILÉN Nina, BIRANTAMIJE Gérard & AMBROSETTI David, Journal of Eastern African Studies, Volume 12, 2018 - Issue 1, Pages 120-135, Published online: 21 December 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2017.1418173 - Special Collection: African contributions to peace operations: insights from the military; Guest editors: Nina Wilén, David Ambrosetti and Jean-Nicholas Bach.
* The authors would like to dedicate this article to Barbara Delcourt with their deep gratitude
How can post-conflict militaries with a history of politicized oppression and exclusion achieve professionalization? In this article, we examine the Burundian army's trajectory through the longue durée, studying its role in and for the state from 1966 to the current political crisis. The aim of the article is to increase understanding of how, and to what extent, the Burundian army has managed to professionalize after the end of the civil war in the early 2000s, in spite of its violent and exclusionary history. We argue that the Burundian army has managed to professionalize and depoliticize to a limited extent (and with important constraints) following the end of the civil war due to three factors: (1) an important pre-war heritage of a technically and functionally professional, yet politicized army; (2) a favourable domestic political climate where the army no longer needs to play a political role but can take on the role of domestic peacemaker; (3) significant external training and support related to peacekeeping deployment and Security Sector Reform (SSR). This professionalization has, however, partly been reversed during the recent crisis starting in 2015, showing the fragility of a post-conflict professionalization where ties between officers and political actors are revoked again.