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Analysis and adoption of the draft law on the organisation of the diplomatic service of the Republic of Burundi

publie le Monday 6 December 2021
parCommunication and Spokesperson’s Office

Henceforward Burundi will no longer be represented by foreign commissioners as ambassadors, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation reassured on Friday, September 17, 2021, on the sidelines of the analysis of the bill on the organisation of the diplomatic service of the Republic of Burundi, which was adopted unanimously. The last commissioner, a European operating in Vienna, who was warned of his imminent resignation, is already packing his bags. In total, there were three, one Ivorian and one Egyptian. But the practice is common in other countries. Even a Burundian, Mr Pascal-Firmin Ndimira, who was once Prime Minister, was Togo’s commissioner.
According to Ambassador Albert Shingiro, in his explanatory statement, several important arguments were made around the bill under analysis. Firstly, the Constitution, in its article 164, paragraph 3, specifies that the diplomatic service falls within the domain of the law. However, since Burundi’s Independence, the ministry in charge of the diplomatic service subscribed to decrees and/or ordinances, in short, legislation that is not only scattered but also without weight. Since Burundi’s Independence, no diplomat has been trained in that area. Experienced ambassadors drowned their Burundian colleagues in international meetings. Moreover, those national ambassadors doubted their future at the end of their career, which sometimes led them to declare themselves as refugees to find asylum in Europe or America. This situation tarnished the country’s image in the concert of nations.
For such reasons, the Council of Ministers in December 2020 initiated the bill which advocates the rotation of diplomats over a period of four years. The idea is to strengthen the sense of belonging to the institution and to cultivate retention. The bill under review also provides for the recruitment of young people who will be trained on the job.
That point raised concerns from MPs who wonder whether other civil servants are automatically excluded from the diplomatic career. Another proposed way out would be to recruit international relations graduates, given that the diplomatic stream is not yet established in Burundi. Different profiles are found in the diplomatic sector. There are many candidates. It is then a responsibility of the decision-maker to reconcile certain conditions relating to the quotas defined by the Burundian Constitution.
As for the school of diplomacy, there is no need to set it up in order to avoid overlapping. Otherwise, it is taught in some faculties of Burundi University and in private universities.
Moreover, the principle of reciprocity is crucial in the diplomatic field. If a country does not show willingness to open its embassy in Burundi, this one also gives it back. It is in this context that the country closed its embassy in Ottawa even though many Burundians live there. Nevertheless, the Ambassador accredited in Washington, a few hours away by plane, can also cover that locality.
Finally, MPs recommended that the Government improve the country’s image. They took as a testimony the Embassy of Burundi in Paris which was sold by an ambassador without the approval of his minister. That embassy left the sixteenth arrondissement where the administrative staff live to land in a slum. Even a member of the government visiting the embassy had his belongings stolen from his vehicle. On the other hand, lands were granted but the finances for construction slow down. The case of 64 acres is sadly remembered as it was recovered by Kinshasa because it was not exploited. Even though the ultimatum given to Bujumbura was set for 31 December 2021, the case of Mogadishu and the building in Addis Ababa, which is still under construction, are still being echoed.
In addition, the country’s image is damaged by the very mentality of some ill-intentioned ambassadors. To label an ambassador as persona non grata is a sword in the heart of his country. Burundi should therefore sift its representatives so that the case of South Africa does not happen again. Indeed, the embassy’s budget was used to buy liquor, while enjoying the exemption. Ethics and deontology are knowingly violated. Otherwise every diplomat is aware that no member of his family, the ambassador himself, is forbidden to engage in any commercial activity.
Burundi must not ignore the Vienna and New York conventions that regulate international relations to some extent. Let us not hide the fact that the cold war continues, if not more ferocious than before. In diplomacy, there are no friends but interests, just like in human relations.

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