Burundi: Rwasa - Burundi Not Out of the Woods in Quest for Unity, Stability

Agathon Rwasa, the country's opposition leader, spoke with The EastAfrican on electoral process, political space and composition of a new government

What is your take on the new government given that opposition has been left out of the Cabinet?

First of all, the election was held in some challenging environment. We could not sell our policies because the administration and police were on our way everywhere. Currently, there is no opposition presence in the Cabinet and neither is there in the government administration.

The country's constitution doesn't state that the opposition must be part of government. Why do you think the ruling party should reach out to opposition?

The constitution was tailored to exclude the opposition, nevertheless one doesn't have to apply the constitution the way it's written, but rather just be realistic and see what the country needs because the ruling party cannot be the only one telling people what they deserve. The ruling party has been in office for the past 16 years and the economy is not growing.

We have seen improvements, and some international sanctions are being lifted. Isn't that progress?

You know, having good ties with the international community is one thing, but governance itself is another challenge. After all, just think about the level of corruption in this country and wonder whether it will disappear just because there are good relations with the donors. I don't think so. They need to come down and recognise the real problems Burundi is facing. We have incompetent administrators and that is why in my opinion the situation is worsening.

What do you think needs to be done in Burundi for sustainable development and stability to be achieved?

First of all, the ruling party has to change its mind that Burundi is not CNDD-FDD and vice versa. Burundi is for all Burundians and whoever is able to deliver quality service to the people should be allowed to serve in the administration and governance of this country.

There are reports of arrests, torture and even killing of opposition members. What do you think and how about your safety?

This is not something new. Those in power want to make sure they remain there for life but this is not possible. President Evariste Ndayishimiye speaking in Gitega during his swearing in said there is no room for opposition. This means he just wanted to demolish the opposition and make a one party state system and this is not compatible with multiparty democracy. And being in opposition doesn't mean one is an enemy.

What are you doing to protect your supporters as reports indicate some have been tortured and arbitrarily arrested?

It is not only members of CNL who are harassed and killed; [even] many Burundians who are not satisfied with how CNDD-FDD is governing the country. And this is not a good sign for this regime. We could go to court but the judiciary of Burundi is also not impartial.

However, we have advised our supporters not to be provoked because this is what is used to trap them. But everything has a beginning and an end so we hope that this will come to an end some day.

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