Burundi, Constitution of

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Constitution of the Ubgami of Burundi

Chapter I: The Ubgami - The Public Powers

Article 1

  • The Ubgami of Burundi is a sovereign and independent Kingdom. The territory of the Ubgami is unalienable.

Article 2

  • The principle of government is the hereditary and constitutional monarchy. The Ubgami is a Nation under the rule of Law, committed to fundamental freedoms and rights.

Article 3

  • The executive power is exercised by the highest authority of the Umwami whose person is inviolable.

Article 4

  • The legislative power is jointly exercised by the Umwami and the National Assembly.

Article 5

  • The judiciary power is exercised by the courts and tribunals in the name of the Umwami.

Article 6

  • The separation of the administrative, legislative and judiciary functions is guaranteed.

Article 7

  • The blazon of the National Flag is "Per saltire Rouge and Vert, a fillet saltire Argent.
  • The blazon of the Umwami's standard is "Per saltire Rouge and Vert, a fillet saltire Argent, on a plate fimbriated Or, a karyenda Proper.

Article 8

  • Kirundi is the official language of the Kingdom.

Article 9

  • Roman Catholicism is the religion of the Kingdom.


Chapter II: The Umwami, The Demise of the Crown

Article 10

  1. The succession to the Throne, opened by death or by abdication, takes place by the direct and legitimate issue of the reigning Umwami, by order of primogeniture with priority given to males within the same degree of kinship. In the absence of direct legitimate issue, the succession passes to the brothers and sisters of the reigning Umwami and their direct legitimate descendants, by order of primogeniture with priority given to males within the same degree of kinship.
  2. If the heir, who would have acceded by virtue of the preceding paragraphs is deceased or has renounced the Throne before the succession became open, the succession passes to his own direct legitimate descendants by order of primogeniture with priority given to males within the same degree of kinship.
  3. If the application of the preceding paragraphs does not fill the vacancy of the Throne, the succession passes to a collateral heir appointed by the Crown Council upon the advice of the Regency Council. The powers of the Umwami are temporarily held by the Regency Council. The Throne can only pass to a person holding Burundian citizenship on the day the succession opens.
  4. The procedures of application of this Article are set, as needed, by the House Laws of the Sovereign Family promulgated by Sovereign ordinance.

Article 11

  1. The Umwami can exercise His sovereign powers if He has reached His age of maturity fixed at the age of eighteen.
  2. During the Umwami's adolescence or in case the Umwami is unable to exercise His functions, the organization and conditions of exercise of the Regency are provided for by the House Laws of the Sovereign Family.

Article 12

  • The Umwami exercises His sovereign authority in full compliance with the provisions of the Constitution and Laws.

Article 13

  • The Umwami represents the Ubgami in its relations with foreign powers.

Article 14

  1. After consulting with the Crown Council the Umwami signs and ratifies treaties and international conventions. He acquaints the National Assembly through the Prime Minister with them before their ratification.
  2. However, the following treaties must be ratified in pursuance of a Law:
    1. Treaties and international agreements affecting the organization of the Constitution.
    2. Treaties and international agreements the ratification of which entails the modification of the existing legal provisions.
    3. Treaties and international agreements which entail the Ubgami’s adhesion to an international organization the functioning of which implies the participation of the National Assembly’s members.
    4. Treaties and international organizations the implementation of which results in a budget expenditure pertinent to expenditure type or use, which is not provided by the budget act. The Ubgami’s external policy is accounted for in an annual report prepared by the government and notified to the National Assembly.

Article 15

  • After consulting with the Crown Council, the Umwami exercises the right of pardon and amnesty as well as the right of naturalization and restoration of nationality.

Article 16

  • The Umwami confers orders, titles and other distinctions.


Chapter III: Fundamental Freedoms and Rights

Article 17

  • All Burundians are equal before the Law. There is no privilege among them.

Article 18

  1. The circumstances in which Burundian nationality may be acquired are laid down by Law. The circumstances in which a person who has acquired Burundian nationality by naturalization may be deprived of it are laid down in the Law.
  2. Loss of Burundian nationality in any other circumstance may occur only, as prescribed by Law, with the intentional acquisition of another nationality or of service unLawfully carried out in a foreign army.

Article 19

  1. Individual freedom and security are guaranteed. No one may be prosecuted except in cases provided for by Law, before legally appointed judges and in the manner prescribed by Law.
  2. Apart from cases of flagrant offence, an arrest may be carried out only pursuant to the well-founded order of the judge, which must be notified at the arrest or, at the latest, within twenty-four hours. Any detention must be preceded by an examination.

Article 20

  1. No penalty may be introduced or applied except by Law.
  2. No one may be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  3. The death penalty is abolished.
  4. Criminal Law cannot have any retroactive effect.

Article 21

  • The domicile is inviolable. No entry and search in the domicile can take place except in cases and in the manner prescribed by Law.

Article 22

  • Every individual has the right to respect of private and family life and confidentiality of correspondence.

Article 23

  1. Freedom of religion and of public worship, and freedom to express one’s opinions in all matters, is guaranteed, subject to the right to prosecute any offences committed in the exercise of the said freedoms.
  2. No one may be compelled to participate in the rites or ceremonies of any religion or to observe its days of rest.

Article 24

  • Property is inviolable. No one may be deprived of property except for public benefit as established by Law, and upon a fair, settled and paid compensation in the circumstances and manner specified by Law.

Article 25

  1. Freedom of work is guaranteed. Its practice is determined by Law.
  2. Priority is granted to Burundians for the obtainment of public and private positions in the circumstances prescribed by Law or international conventions.

Article 26

  • Burundians are entitled to the assistance of the Kingdom in the event of destitution, unemployment, sickness, handicap, old age and maternity in the circumstances and manner laid down by Law.

Article 27

  • Burundians are entitled to free primary and secondary education.

Article 28

  1. Every person may defend the rights and interests of his/her occupation and function through a trade-union action.
  2. The right to strike is recognized, subject to regulation of Law.

Article 29

  • Burundians have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms in accordance with the Laws that may regulate the exercise of this right without subjecting it to prior authorization. This freedom does not extend to open-air meetings, which remain subject to police Laws.

Article 30

  • Freedom of association is guaranteed, subject to regulation of Law.

Article 31

  • Anyone may address petitions to the public authorities.

Article 32

  • Foreigners enjoy all public and private rights in the Ubgami that are not formally reserved to nationals.


Chapter IV: Public Domain, Public Finance

Article 33

  • Public domain is unalienable and imprescriptible. A public domain property may be closed down or may change purpose only if pronounced by Law. The Law may allocate decommissioned property to the Ubgami's or a Province's public domain, as the case may be. Public domain’s consistency and regime are determined by Law.

Article 34

  • The Crown’s property is submitted to the Sovereign's exercise. They are unalienable and imprescriptible. Its consistency and regime are determined by the House Laws at the Sovereign Family.

Article 35

  • Real property of the Ubgami and rights pertinent to private property held by the Ubgami are transferable only in accordance with the Law. The Law gives authorization to sell a particle of the business capital of which at least fifty per cent is held by the Kingdom, thereby transferring the majority of this capital to one or more physical persons or private legal persons.

Article 36

  • All vacant and ownerless property belongs to the private domain of the Kingdom.

Article 37

  • The national budget comprises all public revenue and public expenditure of the Ubgami.

Article 38

  • The national budget expresses the Ubgami’s economic and financial policy.

Article 39

  • The budget is subject to a budget bill. It is voted and promulgated in the form of a Law.

Article 40

  • The Household expenses of the Umwami and those of the Umwami Palace are determined by budget Law and withdrawn in priority from the budget’s general public revenue.

Article 41

  • The revenue surplus over expenditure, established after budget implementation and year end closing of accounts, is credited to a constitutional reserve fund. The excess of expenditure over revenue provides cover withdrawing from the same account, after enactment of the relevant Law.

Article 42

  • Control of financial management is ensured by a Higher Audit Commission.


Chapter V: The Government

Article 43

  • Government is exercised, under the gracious authority of the Umwami, by a Prime Minister assisted by a Government Council.

Article 44

  • The Prime Minister represents the Umwami. He oversees the executive services. He has the police force at his command. He chairs the Government Council with a casting vote.

Article 45

  • Sovereign ordinances are debated in the Government Council. They are presented to the Umwami with the Prime Minister's signature; they mention the relevant proceedings. They are signed by the Umwami; the Umwami's signature makes them enforceable.

Article 46

  • Sovereign Ordinances, which are excluded from debate in the Government Council and presentation to the Prime Minister, pertain to:
    • The House Laws of the Sovereign Family and these of its members.
    • The affairs of the Direction of the Judicial Department.
    • The appointment of members of the Sovereign Household, the diplomatic and consular corps, the Prime Minister, the Government Councillors and assimilated civil servants, the magistrates in the judiciary.
    • The issue of exequatur to consuls.
    • The dissolution of the National Assembly.
    • The granting of honors and titles.

Article 47

  • Ministerial decrees are debated during the Government Council and signed by the Prime Minister; they mention the relevant proceedings. They are notified to the Umwami within twenty-four hours after signature and become enforceable only in the absence of the Umwamis formal opposition within ten days after the Prime Minister’s notification.
  • However, the Umwami may let the Prime Minister know He does not intend on exercising His right of opposition for some decrees or types of decrees. These are thereby enforceable as soon as they are signed by the Prime Minister.

Article 48

  • Unless Law provides otherwise, distribution of subject matters between sovereign ordinances and ministerial decrees is determined by sovereign ordinance.

Article 49

  • The proceedings of the Government Council are subject to minutes recorded in a special register and signed, after the vote, by the present members. The minutes mention each members vote. Within five days after the meeting, the Umwami is notified who can lodge an opposition under the conditions provided by the above Article 47.

Article 50

  • The Prime Minister and Government Councillors are accountable to the Umwami for the Ubgami’s administration.

Article 51

  • Civil servants’ obligations, rights and fundamental guarantees, as well as their civil liability and criminal responsibility are laid down by Law.


Chapter VI: The Ubgami Council

Article 52

  1. The Ubgami Council is in charge of advising on draft legislation and ordinances, which the Umwami submitted for their perusal.
  2. It can also be consulted on any other draft instrument. Its organization and operations are prescribed by sovereign ordinance.


Chapter VII: The National Assembly

Article 53

  1. The National Assembly comprises fifty-four members, three from each province. They are elected for five years by direct universal suffrage and by the list system under the conditions prescribed by Law.
  2. In accordance with the conditions determined by Law, those eligible to vote are Burundian citizens of either gender, at least eighteen years old, with the exception of those deprived of the right to vote for any of the causes set forth by Law.

Article 54

  1. All Burundian voters of either gender, aged at least twenty-five, who have held the Burundian nationality for at least five years, and who are not deprived of the right to stand for election for any of the causes set forth by Law, are eligible.
  2. Law determines which offices are incompatible with the National Assembly’s mandate.

Article 55

  • Courts of justice are entrusted with the control of the elections’ legitimacy, under the conditions prescribed by Law.

Article 56

  • The National Assembly’s members are not liable to any civil or criminal responsibility on the grounds of opinion or votes they express during the exercise of their mandates. Without the National Assembly’s authorization, they may neither be prosecuted nor arrested during a session due to a criminal or police infringement, save in the case of flagrant offense.

Article 57

  • The newly elected National Assembly meets on the eleventh day after elections in order to elect its board. The oldest National Assembly member chairs this session. Without prejudice to Article 74, the prior National Assembly’s powers expire on the day of the new National Assembly’s meeting.

Article 58

  • The National Assembly meets ipso jure in two annual ordinary sessions. The first session opens on the first working day of April. The second session opens on the first working day of October. Each session may not last longer than three months. The session’s closure is declared by the President.

Article 59

  • The National Assembly meets in extraordinary session, convened either by the Umwami or on the request of at least two-thirds of the members, by the President.

Article 60

  1. The National Assembly's board comprises a President and a Vice-president, who are elected each year by the Assembly from among its members.
  2. A mayor’s office is incompatible with that of the National Assembly's President and Vice-president.

Article 61

  • Without prejudice to the provisions of the Constitution and, if need be, the Law, the organization and operations of the National Assembly are determined by the rule of procedure which the National Assembly issued. Before being enforced these rules of procedure must be submitted to the Supreme Court, which decides on its compliance with the Constitution and, if need be, with Law.

Article 62

  1. The National Assembly sets its agenda. The Prime Minister is notified at least three days beforehand. At the request of the Government, at least one of the two sessions must be devoted to debating the bills introduced by the Umwami.
  2. However the agenda of extraordinary sessions convened by the Umwami is set in the convocation.

Article 63

  • The National Assembly’s meetings are public. However the National Assembly may decide with a majority of two-thirds of the attending members, to sit in private session. The minutes of the public meetings are published in the "Burundi Journal".

Article 64

  • The Umwami communicates with the National Assembly through messages read by the Prime Minister.

Article 65

  • The Prime Minister and Government Councillors have reserved seats at the National Assembly’s meetings. They must be given the floor when they so request.

Article 66

  1. The instigation of Law implies the agreement of wills of both the Umwami and the National Assembly.
  2. The Umwami alone may initiate Law.
  3. Deliberating and voting on bills are the National Assembly's responsibility. It falls to the Umwami to sanction Laws, which confers them a binding power through promulgation.

Article 67

  1. The Umwami signs bills. These bills are introduced to Him via the Government Council and with the Prime Minister's signature. After the Umwami’s endorsement, the Prime Minister introduces them to the National Assembly.
  2. The National Assembly can formulate bill proposals. Within a period of six months starting from the date the Prime Minister received the draft legislation, he notifies the National Assembly of the following:
    1. Either his decision to turn the proposal into a bill, amended as the case may be, which shall follow the procedure provided for in paragraph 1. In this case, the bill is introduced within a period of one year starting from the expiration of the six months period mentioned above, or
    2. his decision to interrupt the legislative procedure. This decision is explained with a declaration placed on the agenda of an ordinary session public meeting anticipated within the period. This declaration can be followed by a debate. After the expiration of the six months period mentioned above, if the Government has not announced the outcome intended for this bill proposal, the latter according to the procedure prescribed in paragraph 1. becomes ipso jure a bill.
  3. The same procedure is applicable if the Government did not introduce the bill within the one year period provided for in paragraph 2 a). The National Assembly has the right of amendment. As such, it can propose inclusions, substitutions or withdrawals in the bill. Amendments alone that have a direct link with the bill provisions relevant to the bill are admitted. The vote takes place on the amended bill, as the case may be unless the Government withdraws the bill before the final vote. However, the provisions of the preceding paragraph are not applicable for ratification bills or budget bills. At the beginning of each ordinary session, in public meeting, the National Assembly announces the update of all bills introduced by the Government whenever they were introduced.

Article 68

  1. The Umwami issues, when necessary, ordinances to ensure the enforcement of Laws and the implementation of international treaties or conventions.

Article 69

  1. Laws and sovereign ordinances are enforceable against third parties only from the day after their publication in the "Burundi Journal".

Article 70

  1. The National Assembly votes on the budget.
  2. No direct or indirect taxation may be introduced but through a Law.
  3. Any treaty or international agreement entailing such taxation may only be ratified by a Law.

Article 71

  1. Budget bills are introduced to the National Assembly before September 30th.
  2. Budget bills are voted upon during the National Assembly October session.

Article 72

  1. The budget is voted upon chapter by chapter. Transfers from one chapter to another are forbidden unless authorized by Law. The Budget comprises among others, within expenditure items, sums made available to the Provincial Council for the budgetary year to come, as provided for in Article 87.

Article 73

  1. In case the appropriation of funds requested by the Government as provided for in Article 71 has not taken place before December 31st, funds relevant to services voted upon may be opened by sovereign ordinance with the National Assembly’s agreement.
  2. The same prevails for income and expenses resulting from international treaties.
  3. The Umwami may, after having taken the advice of the Crown Council, pronounce the dissolution of the National Assembly. If this occurs, new elections take place within a period of three months.


Chapter VIII: The Crown Council

Article 75

  1. The Crown Council consists of seven members of Burundian nationality, appointed by the Umwami for a period of three years.
  2. The President and three other members are directly appointed by the Umwami. Three members are appointed at the suggestion of the National Assembly, chosen from outside its members.
  3. The offices of Prime Minister and Government Councillor are incompatible with those of member of the Crown Council.

Article 76

  1. The Crown Council meets at least twice a year at the Umwami's summons. In addition, the Umwami may call a meeting anytime He deems it necessary, either on his own initiative or at the suggestion of the Crown Council's President.

Article 77

  • The Crown Council may be consulted by the Umwami on issues regarding the Ubgami's higher interests. It may offer suggestions to the Umwami. It must be consulted on the following subjects:
    • international treaties,
    • dissolution of the National Assembly,
    • requests for naturalisation and restoration of Burundian nationality, and **pardons and amnesties.


Chapter IX: The Provinces

Article 78

  • The territory of the Ubgami is comprised of fifteen provinces.

Article 79

  1. The Province is administered by a Council composed of the Governor and deputies designated by the Provincial Council from amongst its members.
  2. In accordance with the conditions determined by Law, Burundian citizens of either gender, at least eighteen years of age, are eligible to vote, with the exception of those deprived of the right to vote for any of the causes set forth by Law.
  3. All Burundian voters of either gender, at least twenty-one years of age, who have held the Burundian nationality for at least five years and who are not deprived of the right to stand for election for any of the causes set forth by Law are eligible.

Article 80

  1. The Provincial Council is composed of 15 members elected for a term of four years by universal direct suffrage by the list system.
  2. There is no incompatibility between the Provincial Councillor's mandate and that of National Assemblyman.

Article 81

  • The Provincial Council meets every three months in ordinary session. Each Session may not last longer than fifteen days.

Article 82

  • Extraordinary sessions may be held, on the request of or with the authorization of the Prime Minister, for specific purposes.

Article 83

  • The Provincial Council may be dissolved by a well-founded ministerial decree after the Kingdom Council’s opinion is sought.

Article 84

  • In case of dissolution or the resignation of all the members of the Provincial Council, a special delegation is appointed by ministerial decree to carry out its duties until a new Council is elected. This election shall take place within three months.

Article 85

  • The Provincial Council is chaired by the Governor or, in his/her absence, by the deputy or the councillor who replaces him/her; following the order of the chart.

Article 86

  • The Provincial Council debates in public meeting on the Province’s affairs. Its proceedings are enforceable fifteen days after notification to the Prime Minister, unless a well-founded opposition under the form of a ministerial decree is initiated.

Article 87

  • The Provincial budget is supplied with revenue produced from Provincial property, the Province's ordinary resources, and appropriations prescribed by the initial budget Law of the year.


Chapter X: The Justice

Article 88

  1. Judicial power vests in the Umwami, who, by the present Constitution, delegates its full exercise to the courts and tribunals.
  2. Tribunals render justice in the name of the Umwami. The independence of judges is guaranteed. The organization, jurisdiction and operations of the tribunals, as well as the status of judges, are laid down by Law.

Article 89

  1. The Supreme Court is composed of ten full members and two substitute members. The memberws of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Umwami, as follows:
    1. Two full members and one substitute member are presented by the National Assembly from outside its members.
    2. Two full members and one substitute member are presented by the Ubgami Council from outside its members.
    3. One full member is presented by the Crown Council from outside its members.
    4. One full member is presented by the Court of Appeals from outside its members.
    5. One full member is presented by the Civil Court of First Instance from outside its members.
  2. These presentations are done by each of the above mentioned bodies at the rate of two per seat. If the Umwami does not agree with these introductions, He is free to require new ones.
  3. The President of the Supreme Court is appointed by the Umwami.

Article 90

  1. In constitutional matters, the Supreme Court rules in sovereign fashion over:
    1. Compliance of the National Assembly's rules of procedure with constitutional and, if need be, legislative provisions under the conditions prescribed by Article 61,
    2. Appeals on petitions for annulment, petitions to review validity and actions for damages arising from violations of these rights and freedoms prescribed in chapter III of the Constitution, and which are not referred to in subsection B of the present Article.
    3. In administrative matters, the Supreme Court rules in sovereign fashion over
      1. Proceedings for annulment of ultra vires decisions taken by various administrative authorities or Sovereign Ordinances to enforce Laws, and the award of related damages.
      2. Appeals by way of quashing decisions of last resort taken by administrative jurisdictions.
      3. Appeals for interpretation and petitions to review the validity of decisions of various administrative authorities or Sovereign Ordinances to enforce Laws
    4. The Supreme Court rules over conflicts of jurisdiction.

Article 91

  1. The Supreme Court deliberates either in plenary session composed of ten members or in administrative section composed of five members. It sits and deliberates in plenary session:
    1. On constitutional matters.
    2. As judge of conflicts of jurisdiction.
    3. On administrative matters on references ordered by the President of the Supreme Court or decided by the administrative section.
  2. It sits and deliberates in administrative section in all other cases.

Article 92

  1. A sovereign order regulates the organization and operations of the Supreme Court, especially relevant to the required qualifications of its members, incompatibilities regarding them as well as their status, the turnover of the administrative section’s members, the procedure to follow before the Court, effects of petitions and awards, procedure and effects of conflicts of jurisdiction, and necessary transitional measures.


Chapter XI: The Revision of the Constitution

Article 93

  • The Constitution may not be suspended.

Article 94

  • Any revision, in full or in part, requires the joint agreement of the Umwami and the National Assembly.

Article 95

  • In case of initiative on the part of the National Assembly, proceedings maybe taken only by a two-thirds majority vote of the normal number of members elected at the assembIy.


Chapter XII: Final Provisions

Article 96

  • The present Constitution immediately enters into force.

Article 97

  • Laws and regulations currently into force remain applicable to the extent that they are not incompatible with the present Constitution. If need be, they must be amended in order to comply, as soon as possible, with the latter.
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