Agathon Rwasa: “No one can oblige others to follow them by force”

Agathon Rwasa, the historical leader of FNL party breaks the silence on the arrests, killings, imprisonment of his followers, misunderstanding between the EU and Bujumbura on how Burundian AMISOM contingents should be paid, the striking off of civil society organizations, etc.


Agathon-Rwasa-600x437Your sympathizers are arrested and imprisoned here and there in the country. Are you aware of that? And what do you say?

It is true that there is a kind of manhunt against my supporters. Since the past few months, more than 120 have been arrested and imprisoned. It is a pity in view of what is happening.

I can honestly say that since independence, there has been little progress in terms of governance and democracy. I think that the only reason behind this is the tendency on the part of the managers of power to monopolize the ground at all costs. Unfortunately, this has always led to disaster.

We shall have seen how the exclusion of some to the benefit of others is so detrimental. This attitude must be discouraged and eradicated in this nation. Sincerely speaking, I believe that there are some who abuse their authority and who, perhaps, may sometimes be the perpetrators ‘accomplices.

Can you provide some examples?

A few weeks ago, in Gihogazi commune of Karuzi province, households were attacked at night. People went to demolish their homes, and when the victims filed the complaint to the police and the administration, the latter asked them to go and carry out investigation themselves to identify the perpetrators.

The police and the administration said they would pursue their investigations afterwards.

It is still an unmistakable sign and inadmissible that these authorities are in some way complicit in these abuses.
Unfortunately, this seems to reinforce the managers of power but in the end, this behavior ends up creating disastrous situations.
Very recently, I learned that there is someone who is imprisoned in Kiremba, just because there was the FNL anthem in his telephone. Is that a crime? For which offence has he been imprisoned?

There are those who show excessive zeal for their parties. What is not at all normal in a democracy because in any case one is free to belong to a political formation of their choice, no one is supposed to force others to follow them by force. However, it is a pity that this happens in this way everywhere.

What can be done to make this change?

We must all bear in mind that we are all Burundian citizens. It is the only way for this country to emerge. We must be at the service of this nation and not at the service of our ideological, ethnic-religious, regional belongings etc.

It is necessary to be on the sidelines and solely rely on the law to help citizens live together.

Secondly, no one can pretend to develop when there are always tears in the social fabric over political matters.
People must understand that a single thought is not possible. They must understand that we cannot all be in the same political formation. Multiparty system is enshrined in the constitution.

Let people be free, open the door to everyone and be competitive at the level of the programs to be offered to the population, and not force that seems rather to be the mode of operation or governance of current or former managers of power.

Don’t these arrests and imprisonments reflect internal divisions?

There are people who do whatever it takes to hurt others. If there is any conflict, there is often a part of the authority.
There may be authorities who abdicate and fail in their duty to ensure that national unity and concord are always in order.

Among the commitments of the country’s managers is to ensure that the Charter of National Unity is the key word in the lives of citizens. It is not normal for a leader to strive to sow division within a population that s/he is called to lead.

And if it were to be true, there would be double agent militants, half CNDD-FDD half FNL. That would be catastrophic, but I would not be surprised.
In any case, there are people who have this tendency to duplicity where they are close to the power and try to make believe that they belong to the opposition on the other side. This has to be discouraged. It is a path that leads to nowhere.

I would advise each and everyone to reconsider their attitude. One is free to belong to this or the other political party.

What do you say about the misunderstanding between the EU and Bujumbura over the payment of Burundian troops deployed in Somalia?

Relationships are not promising. The way out is always the dialogue between partners. We are not an island. We are interdependent.
In addition, Burundi is a member of many sub-regional, regional and international organizations. Instead, we must seek to revitalize diplomacy for disputes to be resolved to finally and effectively restart the cooperation that Burundians need.

As for the Burundian soldiers in Somalia, I think what is important is that Burundi discusses with its partners. The EU attitude is a wink, it is up to the Burundian government to analyze the situation and see if there are no errors to correct.

If not, it may invite the EU or other partners to reconsider their positions and revisit the texts.

Burundi has an interest in solving this problem. Any trial of strength is counterproductive. It rather requires a conciliatory position among the stakeholders.

The Minister of the Interior has recently abolished and suspended some civil society organizations. What do you make of that?

The law is clear. The removal of an organization from civil society is not the responsibility of this ministry; it is much more the responsibility of the justice.

As long as there is no judgment rendered, no question of striking them off. The court has that jurisdiction.
So, I can say that it was a political mistake. I urge the government to reconsider its decision not to, just once again, fuel controversy when there is no shortage of it. The law authorizes the ministry of justice to suspend a civil society organization.