The Senate of Republic of Burundi

Current President of the Senate of  Burundi

H.E Honorable  Dr. Emmanuel SINZOHAGERA

Overview on the Senate of Burundi


Composition of the Senate


The Senate is composed of thirty nine senators divided into 3 categories, all the senators lying out, whatever the category from which they result, of the same statute:


- 33 elected senators. An electoral college composed of the communal adviser members of the Province considered elects two Senators coming from different ethnic group and by means of distinct ballots.


- Three Co-opted Senators representing the ethnic group of Batwa and coming from the different areas.


- Five former presidents: the latter are full rights and with life members of the Senate.


Finally the Constitution imposes a minimum of 41% of women. There is a procedure of co-optation to correct, if necessary, the composition of the Senate as a result of the three previous categories by adding seats for women Senators.


In addition to the Speaker, the Senate Bureau includes two Deputy-Speakers, elected according to the same methods and for the same term. The Bureau members cannot come from the same ethnic group, or have the same gender.

When the Bureau members take and quit office, they must write a statement of their possession and patrimony. This statement is addressed to the Supreme Court.

Each Deputy-Speaker has specific prerogatives: the First Deputy-Speaker is competent for political, diplomatic and communication matters, the Second Deputy-Speaker being competent for economic, social and financial matters.

The Senate Bureau represents the Senate on national and international levels. It has all powers to preside over Senate deliberations; it determines, by internal instructions, the organization and functioning of the Senate services.

The Bureau’s decisions are taken by consensus, but, failing this, by a 2/3 majority of its members. Lastly, the Senate Bureau meets frequently: practically, the meeting is on weekly basis. The Bureau meets every Monday, either in its simple forming, or in form of an "Extended Bureau.”

Composition of the Senate Bureau


The Bureau of the Senate is made up as follows:

HonDr. Emmanuel SINZOHAGERA, President

Hon. Spès Caritas NJEBARIKANUYE, First Deputy-President
Hon. Cyriaque NSHIMIRIMANA, Second Deputy-President



The Extended Bureau is made up of the three Bureau members plus Presidents of standing committees of the Senate. The mission of the Extended Bureau is to examine the agenda of the Senate sessions, considering Government prerogatives, and to fix the complementary agenda that the Senate can freely decide.

During sessions, the Extended Bureau convenes weekly called by the Speaker and these meetings are to examine not only the agenda but also any matter concerning the Senate and senators. 
This practice therefore favors the Senate’s collegial management, broader than the one which would impose the strict implementation of rules and regulations.





The Senate has a general legislative competence (Articles 189 and 190 of the Constitution) but the Constitution confers particular prerogatives to it, regarding organic laws, electoral law and local communities (Article 187 § 1 and 3 of the Constitution).

Right of Initiative

What is the meaning of the right of initiative?

The right of initiative is the right to propose a future draft law for an assembly’s reading and adoption.

It belongs jointly to the President of the Republic, the Government, the National Assembly and the Senate.

The Government has the priority agenda. But, if another bill was not read during two consecutive ordinary sessions, it must be registered in priority on the agenda of the following session.




The introduction and transmission of bills to the Senate are announced in a plenary session by the Senate Speaker. During sessions, these introductions and transmissions are displayed and published in the parliamentary journal.


Any text introduced or transmitted is printed and distributed, so that each member of the Senate is informed on it.

Referral to Competent Committee

The bill is transmitted for reading to the competent Standing committee or a special committee by the Senate Speaker.

Creation of a Special Committee

A special committee is created on initiative either of the Government or the Senate, (see article 31. of the Senate’s Rules and Regulations).

Once a standing committee declares itself incompetent or in case of competence conflict between two or several committees, the Senate decides the creation of a special committee on the Speaker’s proposal after a debate in which intervene only the Government, the author of the proposal and presidents of the committees in concern.
If the creation of a special committee is rejected, the Speaker submits to the Senate the competence issue.

Work in Committees

The committee chooses one of its members - the rapporteur- who is in charge of presenting the committee’s stance in a plenary session.

Ministers can attend activities of committees and must be heard whenever they ask for it but they cannot take part in votes.

The committee can ask for hearing a Government member or a representative of a national council provided for by the Constitution (this request is transmitted by the Senate Speaker according to the case to the President of the Republic or to the concerned council).

The author of a proposal or an amendment can be called to the committee meetings devoted to the analysis of his text if he asks for it to the president of the committee. He withdraws from voting.

The committee decides to propose to the Senate either the adoption, rejection or modification of the submitted text.

Votes in committees take place by raising hands or by secret poll:

- The vote by poll is of right when it is requested by at least 1/3 of the committee members.

- Committee members can delegate their voting rights to one of their colleagues of the same committee. Noone can bear more than one voting delegation which must be notified to the president of the committee.

The committee’s conclusions are reproduced in a written report which must be printed, submitted and distributed before the plenary session so that the Senate can be able to deliberate. The amendments submitted to the committee must be put in an appendix to the report.

The Committee for Opinion

Any standing committee can ask to be referred for opinion of a text referred to another standing committee.

Its rapporteur has the right to participate, with advisory voice, to the referred committee work (reciprocally, the same prerogative is given to the rapporteur of the referred committee).

Discussion in Plenary Session

  • The discussion starts by hearing the Government, then the presentation of the referred Committee’s report and if necessary the hearing of rapporteurs for opinion, as well as, if necessary, an economic and social Council member.
  • Discussion continues by passing motions: exception of inadmissibility (whose aim is to show that the proposed text is contrary to one or more constitutional provisions), and preliminary question (aiming at making decide that no deliberation is possible). The adoption of one or the other leads to the rejection of the text on which it was tabled.
  • Then follows the general discussion in which intervene speakers who registered.
  • After the general discussion close, only a return motion to the referred committee can be tabled. In case of adoption, the debate is suspended until the presentation by the committee of a new report.
  • When the referred committee decides the rejection or does not report, the Speaker invites the Senate to decide immediately after the general discussion close: in the first case, if the rejection is not adopted, the articles reading begins; in the second case, the Senate rules on the progression to the reading of articles: its refusal leads to the rejection of the text.
  • The discussion of articles relates successively on each of them and, on each article, related amendments. Amendments and articles are voted separately.

Discussion of an Amendment

Only one of the authors' amendment, the Government, the Speaker or the rapporteur of the referred committee can, and if necessary, the rapporteur of the committee referred for opinion and one speaker of contrary opinion have a say. These interventions, except the Government's ones, cannot exceed five minutes.

After articles reading, the vote follows on the whole text. Senators can intervene beforehand to explain their vote.


It differs according to whether the text under discussion falls under the general field of law (art. 189 and 190 of the Constitution) or the Senate’s particular competence (art. 187. § 1 and 3). Any bill specifies whether it is about a matter relating to that Senate’s competence.

Ordinary Procedure (general field of law)

Bills are simultaneously introduced to the National Assembly and the Senate.

The text is adopted in first reading by the National Assembly. Then, it is transmitted by the National Assembly Speaker to the Senate which reads it at the request of its Bureau or of at least one third of its members issued within 7 days from the reception of the project.

The Senate can either decide that it is not necessary to amend the bill, either adopt the bill after having amended it within 10 days at the most from the request.

If the bill is amended, the Senate transmits it to the National Assembly which decides, either to adopt, or reject the whole or part of amendments adopted by the Senate.

If the Senate does not rule within 10 days or if it informs the National Assembly of its decision not to amend the draft text, the National Assembly Speaker transmits it within 48 hours to the President of the Republic for promulgation.

If, in second reading, the National Assembly adopts a new amendment, the bill is returned to the Senate which decides on the amendment. Within 5 days as from the referal date, it can either decide to adopt it without modification or adopt it with modifications.

If the bill has been again amended, the Senate transmits it to the National Assembly which decides definitively, either by adopting it or by amending it.

Procedure Specific to the Senate’s Particular Competence

Texts introduced in these matters, initially read by the National Assembly, are registered without consultation on the agenda of the Senate which has a 30 days deadline to analyze them.

If the Senate does not amend the text, it returns it to the National Assembly Speaker who transmits it within 48 hours to the President of the Republic for promulgation. 
In the contrary case, the Senate Speaker returns the text to the National Assembly for second reading.

In case of disagreement between the two Chambers, their two Speakers create a Joint Committee (3 deputies and 3 senators) to propose a text on provisions still subject to discussion within 15 working days.

The text worked out by the Joint committee is handed separately, for approval, to each of the two Houses. No amendment is admissible.

If the Joint Committee fails the adoption of a text or if the text is rejected by either of the Chambers, the President of the Republic can, either ask the National Assembly to rule definitively, or declare the bill null and void.

Provisions Particular to Organic Laws

Organic laws are passed by a 2/3 majority of present or represented senators without this majority being below the absolute majority of members composing the Senate. The constitutional Court checks their conformity to the Constitution on obligatory referral by the President of the Republic.

However, MPs’ initiative cannot be taken in whichever sector: it can only be exercised in the legislator’s field of competence as defined by the Constitution listing matters which come under Parliament’s competence.



1° - Citizen's Guarantees and fundamental obligations: protection of public freedoms, subjections imposed in the interest of national defence and public security to citizens in their person and wealth.

2° - Status of persons and wealth: nationality, people's state and capacity; marriage settlements, successions and gifts; property system, real rights, civil and commercial obligations.

3° - Political, administrative and judicial organization: general administration and territorial organization; electoral system; general organization of national orders, decorations and honorary titles; general rules of the organization of national defence, the national police; general principles and statute of the civil service; statute of defence and security corps staff, the Parliament personnel; state of emergency; creation and discontinuation of public autonomous corporations and services; organizations of all kinds of jurisdictions and procedures; magistracy statutes, statutes of holders of an office conferred for life by a public authority and of representatives of the Law; determination of crimes and offences as well as related sentences; organization of the Bar; prison system; amnesty.



4°- Environmental protection and conservation of natural resources.

5° - Financial and patrimonial matters: currency issue system; the State budget; definition of the tax base and tax rates; alienation and management of the State property.

6° - Firms’ nationalizations and denationalizations.

7° - Teaching and scientific research system.

8° - The State’s economic and social action’s goal.

9° - Labour Law, social security, trade union law.


What Means to Amend?

To amend, it is to propose a modification of a text of law during its reading. This amendment can be made, either by the Government, or by a Parliament Member (deputy or senator) on his own behalf or on behalf of the committee he is the rapporteur. 

But Parliamentarians right to amend is subject to some inadmissibilities.


  1. Financial Inadmissibility

    Proposals and amendments formulated by MPs are not admissible when their adoption would have as a consequence, either a significant reduction of public resources, or the creation or aggravation of a significant government expenditure, unless to these proposals or amendments are added proposals for compensation revenue.

  2. Legislative Inadmissibility

The Government can oppose it if it appears during the legislative procedure that a proposal or an amendment is not of the law field. In case of disagreement between the Government and the Parliament, the Constitutional Court rules.

  1. Inadmissibility for Reading Error

After opening debates in a plenary session, the Government can oppose the reading of any amendment which was not referred beforehand to the committee for first reading.



It is in the definition of its mission of control that the Senate presents the highest originality. Beside traditional techniques of control that one finds in all contemporary democratic Parliaments, the Senate, continuator of the transition Senate from the Arusha Accord, indeed adds a specific mission of controlling ethnic and territorial balances as mentioned in the Constitution.


Role of Standing Committees

Standing committees have a general mission of controlling the governmental action (see Committees’ missions).

Recourse to Board of Inquiry

If the Senate wishes to make precise control over some facts or the management of some public services or public companies, it can create, by the vote of a resolution, a board of inquiry whose work can last six months maximum.


Senators' Questions

Senators can use three types of questions to obtain information from the Government:

  1. Written questions:they are asked and answered in writing within a month of their introduction. They are transmitted by their author to the Senate Speaker who notifies them to the Government and the answer follows the same way but in reverse.
  2. Oral Questions without debateare initially asked in writing, and then exposed during 5 minutes by their author in a plenary session organized for this purpose. The concerned Minister answers orally, and then the author of the question has again 5 minutes. During ordinary sessions, one session per week is reserved by priority for such kinds of questions.
  3. Oral Questions with debate: the pattern is the same but the author of the question has 15 minutes to present and any senator can also register for the debate for five minutes maximum.


In three fields, the Constitution gives the Senate a specific mission of control which is actually analyzed in a mission of regulation:

Respect of Representation Balances

That is first of all the case for philosophical principles founding the Constitution: the Senate is in charge of controlling the implementation of constitutional provisions requiring ethnic, gender representation, and balance in all structures and institutions of the State, in particular public administration and defense and security corps. This duty of vigilance entrusts the Senate an eminent role in the success of the process of national reconciliation and consolidation of the rule of law.

Respect of Regional Balances

This is also the case for balanced territory development: the Senate can make investigation in public administration and issue recommendations so that no region of the territory or no group of population is excluded from the benefit of public services.

A General Power to Advise

Lastly, the Constitution gives the Senate the power to advise the President of the Republic and the National Assembly Speaker on any matter, particularly of legislative nature.


The Senate’s special position among institutions is also marked by the power from the Constitution to approve nominations for the most important posts of the Republic. Indeed, nominations by the President of the Republic become effective only once they are approved by the Senate for the following functions:

  • Heads of defence and security corps
    • Province governors
    • Ambassadors
    • Ombudsman 
    • Members of the Magistracy Higher Council
    • Supreme Court members 
    • Constitutional Court members 
    • The Public Prosecutor and Public Prosecution magistrates 
    • President of the Court of Appeal and President of the Administrative Court
  • The State Prosecutor of the Court of Appeal
    • Presidents of High Level courts, of Trade court and Labor Court
    • State prosecutors
    • Members of the National Independent Electoral Committee

In conclusion, the Senate presents very marked and original characters that strongly make it different from the National Assembly. Its election mode, its composition, its functions make it a legislative Assembly with an obvious political character although non-partisan, it is also a representative assembly of populations and local authorities, an assembly with a regulatory function of particular control; in brief, an assembly deeply rooted in burundian reality in tune with the highest aspirations of the population: national reconciliation, stabilization, institutional and political moderation in the exercise of power for the service of peace and balanced development.

Address: Yaranda Street, Bujumbura

 P.O.Box: 814 
Tel.: (+257) 22 24 51 13, 22 24 90 39, 22 24 51 17, 22 25 38 13
Fax: (+ 257) 22 24 51 14
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People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
H.E. Naam Miyara - chairman of The House of Councillors of the Kingdom of Morocco
H.E. Abdulwasie Yusuf Ali - Secretary General - The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Anwar Al-shoaybi - Director of Cultural and Social Affairs