Burundi: Opposition Sceptical President's Sincerity

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has expressed scepticism of President Evariste Ndayishimiye's call for political tolerance by ruling party members.

The president, while addressing government and party leaders in the capital Gitega, asked them to accommodate the opinion of the opposition.

President Ndayishimiye said his government and CNDD-FDD ruling party have agreed to work for every Burundian, the opposition included.

"If you see ruling party members not doing the right thing, you should point it out so that we can check ourselves and get back on track. I call on all the ruling party members not to treat the opposition like co-wives, but like one of you and one who gives good advice," said the president.

However, Mr Rwasa, leader of the major opposition party National Congress for Liberty (CNL) said he is taking the president's words with a pinch of salt because his party members are still harassed, intimidated and face arbitrary arrest by the security forces.

Meetings prohibited

"There is no political space currently despite the comments made by the president and we cannot talk about political space when we are still prohibited from conducting meetings," Mr Rwasa told The EastAfrican.

Mr Rwasa, who is currently an MP, has since last year accused the government of restricting his party activities despite being within his constitutional rights, and that the current government is not having dialogue with the opposition.

"Compared with the previous regime, I think it's getting worse rather than getting better. The president himself after he was sworn in, said there will be no room for opposition," he pointed out.

President Ndayishimiye praised his government, saying that since coming into office mid last year, it has made policy changes away from his predecessor, among them mending relations with the international community, different approach on combating Covid-19 and now promising opposition political space.

Mr Rwasa was among seven candidates who ran in last year's presidential race to replace then President Pierre Nkurunziza who had ruled the country for 15 years.

The ruling CNDD-FDD party won both presidential and legislative elections followed while Rwasa's CNL was the runner-up and UPRONA came third.

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