Burundi On Brink Of War As Nkurunziza Seeks Third Term


prescription geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>Nkurunziza has in recent years exhibited intentions to tighten his hold on power by quietly supporting Constitutional Amendments and using security forces to crush dissent. geneva;”>

Realising that Nkurunziza was determined to stay longer than the Constitution can allow, the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA early this year decided to abandon the coalition government.

Interestingly, after Parliament refused to scrap the constitutional two-term presidential limit, the Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana said Tuesday that Nkurunziza will still stand for a third term in 2015.

“It is the intention of some political actors to believe that Parliament resolved the question of the third term, please be informed that that is not true,” Nduwimana was quoted as briefing participants at the International conference on “Interreligious Dialogue for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Wars in Africa” in Bujumbura.

He further said it should be known that Nkurunziza will stand for President and that “this matter will be decided by the Constitutional Court.”

The latest remarks signal government’s determination to sidestep Parliament in attempting to secure a third term for Nkurunziza.

According to Article 96 of the Constitution based on Arusha Accords that set the guidelines of electing leaders in Burundi following decades of brutal civil wars, it was decided that the President “shall be elected for a term of five years, renewable only once. No one may serve more than two presidential terms.”

However, it is important to note that Nkurunziza was exceptionally elected by Parliament in 2005.

He was returned in 2010 in a general election.

Now, while the President’s last term will expire in 2015, his supporters say he has only completed his first term under Article 96.

Yet, the opposition say Nkurunziza’s move is unacceptable and unconstitutional and that he can only serve as the country’s leader for only two terms irrespective of how he was elected.

Observers say the Hutu-dominated government is even ready to use arms to retain Nkurunziza, threatening to plunge Burundi into a possible civil war.

UN Warns

The United Nations recently warned that “Next year’s elections will be a key test for Burundi,” adding, “Continued political violence is a threat to the democratic process in a country which is still slowly recovering from a devastating protracted civil war.”

It further voiced concern at the increasing restrictions on civil and political rights in Burundi, following a series of violent acts by the ruling party’s youth wing and the disruption of public meetings organised by opposition parties.

“I am concerned that restrictions have increasingly been imposed on freedom of assembly and on the press over the past few months in Burundi,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release.

Recent attacks by the ruling party’s youth wing, including the reported killing of an opposition youth leader on February 19, were also hugely worrying, especially in the lead up to the 2015 presidential elections, she added.

At least 19 violent incidents involving members of the youth wing, known as Imbonerakure, have been documented since the beginning of the year, including beatings, acts of extortion and intimidation of political opponents, and the prohibition and disruption of political meetings.

The latest incident occurred on February 28, when Imbonerakure members reportedly beat up members of an opposition party’s youth wing in the village of Busoni, in the Kirundo province.

“These violent acts threaten to have a negative impact on the exercise of political rights and freedoms in Burundi, and there is real risk that opposition youth groups may start to retaliate, creating a dangerous downward spiral of violence,” Ms. Pillay said.

“I call on the Government to publicly condemn these violent acts to ensure that those responsible for acts of violence are held accountable. This is essential if the rising political tensions in the country are to be defused,” she said.

The High Commissioner also expressed concern that the police, acting on instructions from administrative authorities, disrupted meetings organized by UPRONA on 18 and 19 February.

A workshop organized by the Bujumbura Bar Association in conformity with the new Law on Public Gatherings was also prohibited by the authorities on 18 February.

“The increasing restriction of public gatherings could severely narrow the democratic space ahead of the elections,” she stated.

In addition, Ms. Pillay drew attention to the potentially negative impact on press freedom of a new medial law that requires journalists to reveal their sources of information when they report on a number of issues ranging from state security to public order.


After years of bloodshed and destruction of the country’s infrastructure, Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere facilitated Arusha Peace Accords that saw several rebel groups, including the ruling CNDD-FDD, lay down weapons.

Under the Arusha agreement, the Government is made up of 60 percent Hutu, 40 percent Tutsi; the National Assembly has the same ratio; and the Senate (an institution presumably designed “to assure the minority”) and the Army are explicitly to be constituted of 50 percent Hutu, 50 percent Tutsi.

The Senate also allocates three seats to the Twa minority. After ten years of a Hutu President, the Tutsis now feel marginalised especially by the ruling government’s attempts to entrench Nkurunziza’s hold on power.

It should be remembered that the Tutsi who form 14 percent of the total population (according to 2009 statistics), ruled Burundi for decades after gaining Independence from Belgium in 1962.

The Hutu (85 percent of total population) felt discriminated considering that at the time top positions in the army and other government bodies were occupied by Tutsis. It was not until the signing of the Unity Charter in 1991 that former President Pierre Buyoya opened up political space for a multiparty democracy.

This ended the monopoly of UPRONA. However, three years later, Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated just three months after taking over office.

The killing of Ndadaye plunged Burundi into unprecedented turmoil with Hutu rebellions springing up from different parts of the country to put an end to Tutsi’s domination.


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