17 March 2018

Burundi: Ex-President Challenges Burundi's Opposition

Former Burundian president Domitien Ndayizeye has challenged the country's opposition to provide alternative leadership to foster democracy.

The call comes as a political crisis looms over President Pierre Nkurunziza's push for a constitutional referendum that could allow him to stay in power until 2034.

"There are many patriots in Burundi who are able and ready to represent the interests of the people and to lead the country to stability and development," Mr Ndayizeye told The EastAfrican.

He also wants East African Community heads of state to help Burundi attain democratic leadership.

Mr Ndayizeye's veiled criticism of President Nkurunziza's regime came after the ruling party -- National Council for the Defence of Democracy- Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) -- declared the president "Supreme Guide."

The central committee of the CNDD-FDD party met in Ngozi province on March 10, to analyse and assess the implementation of the party's political programme. It was during this meeting that CNDD-FDD elevated President Nkurunziza, who is the chair of the committee of elders, to supreme guide.

"The value of his ideas, his teachings, advice and deeds found in him an excellent, charismatic leader, and we agreed to elevate him as visionary of the CNDD-FDD Party," said the party's secretary-general Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Opposition leaders said the move sought to guarantee that the president does not face any competition from within the party in the 2020 presidential elections.

They argued that the president is trying to shut out everyone even in his party.

"No one else in that party can even try to contest for the presidency so I don't know where we are headed," said Agathon Rwasa an opposition leader and the deputy speaker of the Burundi parliament.

They warn that the proposed constitutional referendum scheduled for May could deal a blow to the Arusha peace agreement that helped end the 1993-2005 civil war.

The proposed changes provide for the presidential term to be limited to two terms, but increased from five to seven years. This could technically allow President Nkurunziza to run for re-election in 2020 and potentially again in 2027, despite him having served three terms under the current law.

Becoming religious state?

Last week, the ruling party CNDD-FDD called on party members (Bagumyabanga) to devote every Thursday to the Lord, as a day of prayer and fasting.

Mr Ndayishimiye said that every year for three days, the Bagumyabanga will gather in Burundi's central province of Gitega to give thanks, pray and mark January 21 "as the date when the CNDD-FDD party placed God at the forefront."

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