Many voices have recently warned against Pierre Nkurunziza running for a third term as President of Burundi. The President’s supporters are not listening.
The First Blow
The first serious blow to the presidential ambitions of Pierre Nkurunziza came on 27 February 2015, and was made by David Gilmour, Deputy Secretary of American State in Washington DC. The statement was stern and direct: “We hope that the presidential elections will honor the Arusha Accords, including its unequivocal provisions concerning the term limits for the executive (…) The text of the Arusha Accords is unequivocally stating that no one may serve more than two presidential terms.”
While the statesman acknowledged that the Burundi Constitution “could be interpreted as authorizing a third term for the current president, however, he made clear that, a third term would be manifestly contrary to the Arusha Accords, and may well weaken, and jeopardize the peace and stability for which Burundians worked so hard . “
The European Union draws
The European Union spoke out on Thursday, 5 March 2015 in Bujumbura. “It is appears clear, from our analysis that were the current President to run for a third term, this would create a tensions and present risks. We have called for the government to address this issue very carefully by trying to promote a position if not consensus, at least acceptable to all parties to avoid conflict (…) “, Patrick Spirlet said.
Reading between the lines, it appeared that the EU believed that President Nkurunziza intended to run for a third term. The EU however maintained and outlined the importance of the Arusha Accords, “The contributions and spirit of the Arusha Accords are very important for reconciliation and peace in that country (…) ‘the legal interpretation of the agreement in relation to the Constitution – it is not for us to make this point is for the Burundians to respond. It seems important that any interpretation to be made should be well and thoroughly considered, “warns Patrick Spirlet, the delegate of the European Union in Burundi.
Often deemed “too diplomatic”, Burundi’s Catholic Church has oft been accused of being the “Church of Silence” over Burundi’s volatile history. This time though, the church has uncharacteristically spoken out. On Friday, 6 March 2015, Bishop Evariste Ngoyagoye, Archbishop of Bujumbura, Deputy President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Burundi, stated: “After analysis of the Arusha Peace Agreement and the Constitution which is derived, by questioning our hearts as citizens who love their country and as shepherds of the Church (…) we say that Burundians have agreed unambiguously that any person elected to lead the Burundi cannot go beyond two terms of each of five years (…)
The Catholics then requested their parishioners ‘ prayers for a nine day period, from 13th to 21st March 2015, requesting Lord Jesus to grant serenity and peace in Burundi, and to ensure transparent elections. »
”No third term for President Nkurunziza,” is the obvious and implicit message in each of these statements. The US has spoken directly. The EU did include a small caveat, though the basic message was clear. The Catholic Church unusually was vocal, and clear in its message.
Willy Nyamitwe: “He might look again for a second term by universal suffrage”
Nyamitwe serves as the Main Adviser to President Pierre Nkurunziza and in charge of communications. For him, the statement from the Bishops’ statement has been misunderstood. He stated that the message did not in fact oppose a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza. For Nyamitwe, the Head of State of Burundi was elected by indirect suffrage in 2005 and only 2010 by direct elections, and therefore, he would be entitled to appear again for a second term by direct universal suffrage, if the ruling party were to select him as a candidate.
He stated that the Bishops requested that the Burundian Constitution be interpreted in the spirit of the Arusha Agreements. And, according to Nyamitwe, the spirit of the Arusha Accords, is the commitment of all Burundians to democracy and therefore by direct universal suffrage.
Willy Nyamitwe also reflected that it was not only the Arusha Accords that brought peace in Burundi, this came also as a result of the cease fire signed between the CNDD-FDD and the government in 2003.
In response to the EU statement, he responded, ”For us, the Arusha Accords shall in no way be considered an immovable text, like the Gospel, as the Bible.”. “You have to consider the agreement, which was signed with many reservations alongside the Constitution which was passed by referendum later,’ stressed Laurent Kavakure, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Pascal Nyabenda: “The current president has done one term.”
For Pascal Nyabenda, the chairman of CNDD-FDD, the ruling party, the position of the ruling party on the mandate question is clear: “President Pierre Nkurunziza has served one term.” According to him, if Nkurunziza is nominated by the party for the next presidential elections and if he agrees, he has the right to stand.
Pascal Nyabenda indicates that the CNDD-FDD supports the Constitution of Burundi which derives from the Arusha Accords: “However, Burundi’s Constitution the ‘Mother Law,’ and it overrides and earlier other laws”.
Referring to the Article 96 of the same Constitution, Pascal Nyabenda says that President Nkurunziza was elected by universal suffrage, once. He stated that the candidate for the currently ruling party would be announced at the CNDD-FDD congress that will be held soon.
Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira: “We will take to the streets until he gives up”
According to Bamvuginyumvira, Vice President of the Sahwanya FRODEBU party, his party and the coalition ADC-Ikibiri affirms and supports the stated position of the Catholic Church and civil society organizations, “If President Nkurunziza persists for the third term, and he will violate the Arusha Accords and all laws that emanate. »
In this case, Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira indicates that it is high treason to the people: “Pierre Nkurunziza has twice sworn to respect the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi.» He should agree to leave office, otherwise, the Vice President warns, the population will hit the streets until the decision is withdrawn.
Agathon Rwasa: “Nkurunziza swimming against the tide”
For the President of the FNL-Independent, the Nkurunziza regime has only robbed and killed: “In clinging to power, he just wants to protect his interests at the expense of the population. »
Nkurunziza, said Mr. Rwasa, is currently preparing to suppress demonstrators. However, Rwasa believes that the current President has no power against the Burundian people.
He said that if Pierre Nkurunziza insists he will present for a third time, the international community may isolate Burundi: “The country will disintegrate, go into a kind of jungle without law or legitimacy since Nkurunziza has decided to ignore the Arusha Agreement.” Rwasa advises the President to reason: “Lessons should be learned from President Mobutu.” He calls upon Burundians to stick together to avoid the worst.
Lawyer Armel Niyongere: “They warned violations of human rights.”
Representing civil society, the President of ACAT (Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture) welcomed the message from the Catholic Bishops asking the president to respect the Constitution and the Arusha Accords which it emanates. Lawyer Niyongere believes that President Nkurunziza has completed two terms.
When asked about the statement made to the BBC by Nyabenda Pascal, defending the right of Nkurunziza to appear in 2015, Lawyer Niyongere was stern: “This could lead the country into war.” His position is strongly against the third term of Nkurunziza and he states that if not honored, people will take to the streets to demand respect for the Constitution and the Arusha Accords.
He stated that the Burundian courts are not independent, in this case the Constitutional Court: “The members of that court are appointed by the President of the Republic and are strong advocates of CNDD-FDD.”
He continues,” I counsel the President Nkurunziza, the man of God, not to fall into the trap of some officials of his party. He needs to tell them that the higher good comes before the individual benefits. “