Controversy over status of ‘ Supreme Guide of Patriotism’

This Wednesday, February 19, in Bujumbura, the National Assembly adopted the bill establishing the status of ‘Supreme Leader’ despite s opposition critics.

Fabien Banciryanino : “MPs who initiated this bill were motivated by self interests. “

Tension was higher in the National Assembly. It was over the examination of the amendments to the new bill establishing the status of the ‘Supreme Guide of Patriotism’ in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

MP Fabien Banciryanino, has expressed his total disagreement over this bill in favor of the Head of State “who has done nothing positive for the country.”

“During his fifteen years of presidency, we witnessed abominable things to such an extent that such a bill proves to be very inappropriate in favor of the current president! There have been numerous murders; bodies were thrown into the rivers while others were buried after mutilation! Would such an assessment justify the status of the ‘Supreme Guide’? Is that a model for his successors? ” wondered MP Banciryanino.

He went on to say: “You call ‘the Supreme Guide of Patriotism’ a president whose regime is responsible for the exile of thousands of Burundians whom he, at some point, described as ” Mujeri ” (stray starving dogs) in his speeches? Does this language match with the status of a “Supreme Guide”? A president who suspended the activities of organizations defending human rights, a president who closed places of worship and caused dissension among several opposition parties? ”

For MP Banciryanino, “the current president could instead be prosecuted.” He adds that MPs who initiated this bill were motivated by self interests.

“A president appreciated by his people”

Aimée Laurentine Kanyana: “There is no implausibility in examining a law relating to a single individual or groups of individuals within society.”

Speaking in turn, Justice Minister Aimée Laurentine Kanyana took the opposite view of the assertions made by MP Banciryanino. “There has been total security since 2005, roads were constructed, free healthcare was delivered to pregnant women and children under five, there has been economic independence … In short, we have a president with very positive results and who is praised by his people,” said the Minister of Justice. She referred to the remarks of Mr. Banciryanino as “unworthy of a deputy of the nation”.

For her part, MP Godeberthe Hatungimana wondered about the implications of this bill. “If the current Head of state inherits this title of ‘Supreme Guide’, what will happen to his successor if he is also deemed able to be awarded a medal in this way? Will he bear the title of ‘Supreme Supreme Guide’? ”

This MP also questioned the relevance of the law on “the status for a single person” while the National Assembly is intended to provide “common bills.”

“There is no implausibility in examining a law dealing with a single individual or groups of individuals in society. The National Assembly sometimes examines bills relating to the status of doctors when all Burundians are not doctors, etc.,” replied Aimée Laurentine Kanyana.

“Risk of confusion”

Anglebert Ngendabanka : “ Since his coming to power, Burundians have lived together harmoniously in their ethnic and political differences.”

As for Térence Manirambona, MP and spokesperson for CNL party, he recalled that the current president had already got the title of ‘Supreme Guide of Patriotism’ within his political party. He says that with this bill, there is a risk of confusion between what belongs to CNDD-FDD party and what belongs to the country.

Absolutely not, reacted instantly Pascal Nyabenda, President of the National Assembly, who argued that there is a clear separation between that which belongs to the ruling party and what belongs to the State. In the National Assembly, Members of Parliament act on behalf of the nation and, moreover, not all of them belong to the same political party.

“The current president is the source of the peace and reconciliation that reign today. Since he came to power, Burundians have lived harmoniously in their ethnic and political differences,” said MP Anglebert Ngendabanka, who spoke of a president” who has pardoned many detainees.”

MP Ngendabanka also praised a president “who saved the country in extremis” after the 2015 crisis. “If the 2015 coup were successful, where would our country be today?”
For MP Ibrahim Uwizeye, establishing the title of ‘Supreme Guide’ is “rewarding a president who has served his country well.”

This title will serve as an example to the successors of the current president.
For MP Zénon Ndaruvukanye, President Pierre Nkurunziza remained standing despite all the attempts to destabilize him. “Outside the country, groups supported by ‘the enemies of the country’ were formed but they were fought and defeated valiantly under the aegis of President Nkurunziza,” said MP Ndaruvukanye.

Following the debates, out of 108 MPs who were present, 91 voted in favor of the bill, 14 abstained and 3 voted against it.

This bill provides for the establishment of a national day of patriotism which will take place each year in July and which will be chaired by ‘the Supreme Guide of Burundi’.

Story written by Alphonse Yikeze and translated into English by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana