Unemployed youth in Burundi are being forced into desperation by government demands for a tax meant to raise at least 5 billion Burundi Francs each year ahead of the 2020 election. Officials have gone to great lengths to make the unemployed youth to pay up, with the result that in some municipalities, it is difficult to access public services without an official receipt for an election contribution.
Edict from upon high is that any person of voting age (18 years and over) must participate in this “patriotic act”.
The official receipt, issued after the payment of 2000 Fbu per household and/or 1000 Fbu per individual (student), has become a new pass to grant access to public services. In Gitega province, in the commune of Giheta, for example, residents are required to have these passes/receipts in order to access the market.
“I just went to the zonal office to apply for a certificate of residence for administrative use, but to my astonishment, I was asked for the contribution receipt for the 2020 elections,” laments a resident of Magarama, in the Gitega urban cenrre.
The requirement to show the receipt is also being made of people wanting to access medical care. A woman in Giheta said she was asked to produce the receipt by people posted at the entrance of a healthcare clinic.
The Anti-Corruption and Economic Malpractice Observatory (OLUCOME), an NGO operating in Burundi, has strongly opposed the government election levy. Gabriel Rufyiri, president of OLUCOME, believes that this is another way that the Burundian government has found to bleed dry a population that already lives in extreme poverty.
Burundi is among the five poorest countries in the world with more than 70 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. The grinding poverty has made youth targets for recruitment into militia used to carry out acts of violence during political contests. The ruling party affiliated Imbonerakure militia has been cited for acts of violence flagged by two United Nations investigations and are the subject of inquiries by the International Criminal Court.
The 2020 election budget is currently set at about 70 billion Fbu. Although President Pierre Nkurunziza has specified that the contribution is not mandatory, the joint order of the Ministries of Finance and the Interior (No. 530/540/1772 of 11 December 2017 (http: // burundi .gov.bi / spip.php? article3082 & hl = en-BI ) has fixed the modalities of payment and the local administrators use all means necessary to extract the contribution from Burundians.
“We cannot do more!” This is what is often said when authorities go to ask for contributions.