Burundi: Ndayishimiye Promises to Unite Country, Urges Burundians to Shun Ethnicity

A ruling party rally (file photo).

Reconciliation and dialogue were top of Evariste Ndayishimiye's mind as he took oath of office on June 18, 2020 to be Burundi's president.

President Ndayishimiye is the first Burundian president to take Oath of Office in an open stadium with 21 cannon salute from the army.

In his maiden speech to the country in the political capital Gitega, President Ndayishimiye vowed to unite Burundians and called on citizens to shun "the colonial ethnicity imposed on Burundians".

"We need to stop calling each other Hutu or Tutsi and call ourselves Burundians. This ethnicity was brought by colonialists," he said.

MEDDLING FOREIGNERS

"In Burundi, every family has lost a loved one and we have to remember this so that what happened shouldn't happen again because 15 years of CNDD-FFD rule has shown us the truth. It exposed how we were still manipulated by colonisers and this was even the case in 2015," said the president.

Burundi plunged into a political crisis in 2015 after then president Pierre Nkurunziza vied for another term which the opposition believed was unconstitutional.

At least a thousand people lost their lives as hundreds of thousands fled to neighbouring countries.

"President Nkurunziza led Burundi when there was hate and division and Burundians were not patriotic," he said in praise of the late president.

His speech also gave a glimmer of hope to Burundians outside the country, indicating that his government was open for dialogue.

DEMOCRATIC CULTURE

"There should be no foreigner calling for dialogue between Burundians because they are the ones who keep us away from it. But dialogue is our culture, so whoever wants dialogue, even tomorrow they should come," he said.

He said there has been dialogue in the country before and his government will continue to dialogue with political parties for the country development and to promote the culture of democracy.

In a gesture of goodwill, East African Community member states congratulated President Ndayishimiye when he was declared president-elect by the court.

Burundi sent invitations for the swearing-in ceremony but none of the EAC Head of States attended the ceremony.

Tanzania sent a high-powered delegation led by former president Jakaya Kikwete as Tanzania's Special Envoy, accompanied by Vice President Samia Suluhu. Other countries that sent envoys and representatives were Kenya, Egypt, Guinea Equatorial and Congo Brazzaville.

"President Magufuli congratulated Burundians on how they conducted the elections in peace and stability and the transfer of power peacefully and democratically which shows political maturity," said Mr Kikwete.

Nkurunziza died early this month of a heart attack in a hospital in Kauzi after the election but before the handing over ceremony in August. The constitutional court ruled that Ndayishimiye should be sworn in immediately.

EYE ON THE GENERALS

As the region and the world watches President Ndayishimiye navigate internal, regional and global politics, Onesphore Sematumba, the International Crisis Group analyst for the Great lakes region says that Ndayishimiye is only one man and the Nkurunziza political-military system, of which Ndayishimiye himself is also a part, is still firmly in place. It might, therefore, prove difficult to push through personal objectives.

Throughout the electoral campaign, Ndayishimiye presented himself as Nkurunziza's natural successor, ready to continue his policies. But there are also signs he is open to change on certain points. In case he wants to reform, the new president will have to carefully balance his steps within the system, avoiding giving the impression he wants to do away with 15 years of Nkurunziza too hastily.

- Additional reporting by Fred Oluoch

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INSIDER COMES OF AGE

As the region and the world watches President Ndayishimiye navigate internal, regional and global politics, analysts for the Great lakes region say Ndayishimiye is only one man and the Nkurunziza political-military system, of which Ndayishimiye himself is also a part, is still firmly in place.

It might therefore prove difficult to push through personal objectives. Throughout the electoral campaign, Ndayishimiye presented himself as Nkurunziza's natural successor, ready to continue his policies.

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