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Regional sanctions against Burundi: the regime's argumentative self-entrapment*

  • Julia Grauvogel (a1)


This paper examines the impact of regional sanctions on the trajectory of the Burundian regime following the 1996 coup. Despite the country's socioeconomic and geopolitical vulnerability, the Buyoya government initially withstood the pressure from sanctions. Through a vocal campaign against these measures, the new government mitigated the embargo's economic consequences and partially re-established its international reputation. Paradoxically, this campaign planted the seed for long-term comprehensive political concessions. While previous literature has attributed the embargo's success to its economic impact, the government actually responded to the sanction senders' key demand to engage in unconditional, inclusive peace talks once the economy had already started to recover. Based on a novel framework for studying the signalling dimension of sanctions, I show how the regime's anti-sanctions campaign, with its emphasis on the government's willingness to engage in peace talks, backfired, with Buyoya forced to negotiate after having become entrapped in his own rhetoric.


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This paper is a product of the GIGA research project ‘Ineffective Sanctions? External Sanctions and the Persistence of Autocratic Regimes’, which is funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (grant number: 10·11·1·155). I would like to thank Michael Brzoska, Ntagahoraho Burihabwa, Gordon Crawford, Sinja Hantscher, Christian von Soest and the two anonymous reviewers as well as the participants of the doctoral colloquium at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, Hamburg and of the research colloquium of the Chair for Global Governance at the University of Münster led by Markus Lederer for their insightful comments and constructive criticism.



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Grégoire Banyiyezako, Governor of the Bank of the Republic of Burundi (1996–1999), Bujumbura, 2.9.2013.
Donatien Bihute, President of the Chamber of Commerce (1988–1997), Bujumbura, 2.9.2013.
Pierre Buyoya, President of the Republic of Burundi (1987–1993, 1996–2003), Bujumbura, 26.8.2013.
Astère Girukwigomba, Member of UPRONA's executive committee and finance minister (1998–1999), Bujumbura, 13.8.2013.
Albert Mbonerane, Ambassador to Germany (1993–1997) and member of the Burundi Büro, (1997–1999), Bujumbura, 10.8.2013.
Cyprien Mbonimpa: Minister for Foreign Affairs (1987–1992) and government spokesperson for peace and security questions during the Arusha negotiations (1996–2001), Bujumbura, 30.8.2013.
Alois Misago, Editorial Journalist at the Burundi Büro (1996–1999), Bujumbura, 9.8.2013.
Emile Mworoha, Deputy of the National Assembly (1998–2005), Bujumbura, 19.8.2013.
Joseph Ndayisaba, Minister for Basic Education and Alphabetization (1997–1998), Bujumbura, 16.8.2013.
Jérôme Ndiho, former Spokesperson of the CDNN, Bujumbura, 2.9.2013.
Benoit Ndorimana, Administrative general director of the assurance company SOGEAR, Bujumbura, 20.8.2013.
Louis Nduwimana, Employee at the UNDP during the embargo, Bujumbura, 20.8.2013.
Jean Marie Ngendahayo, Minister of Communications and Government Spokesman (1993), worked for the FRODEBU in exile (1995–1998), Bujumbura, 12.8.2013.
Léonidas Nijimbere, former colonel and principal advisor to the president for military issues (1996–2003), Bujumbura, 21.8.2013.
Sébastien Ntahuga, diplomatic advisor to the president Buyoya (1996–2003) and member of the sub-commission on democracy and governance during the Arusha negotiations (1996–1999), Bujumbura, 14.8.2013.
Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, President of the Republic of Burundi (1994–1996), Bujumbura, 26.8.2013.
Jean-Joseph Nyandwi, Employee at the Burundian NGO Conseil pour l’Education et le Développement (COPED) during the embargo, Bujumbura, 27.8.2013.
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