Does Pierre Nkurunziza intend to run for another term?

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has advanced the possibility of his candidacy in the 2020 elections. An announcement that arouses controversy.

Written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana

Electoral campaign of Cndd-Fdd party

Electoral campaign of Cndd-Fdd party

“If the new Constitution allows it and the people demand it, I will not refuse”. An announcement by Pierre Nkurunziza during a public conference held in Rutana province. He, however, says he will respect the decision of the Burundians. “If you need someone else, I will not do.”

The president asked the Burundians to stop “their obsession” for presidential terms. “Do you need terms or authorities that lead you to progress?” He said issues over the amendment of the Constitution and term limit had already been cleared in other countries. He particularly cited countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon and Senegal.

Yet, at his inauguration on 20 August 2015, In Kigobe Congress Hall, Pierre Nkurunziza recalled that it was his last term. He clarified the remarks he made: “The speech I delivered in 2015 was in accordance with the Constitutional Court and the Constitution.”

To this end, the President of the Republic announced the establishment of a commission to amend the Constitution in the near future. The current constitution limits the presidential terms to two.

The Council of Ministers of 16 November had concluded that it was necessary to amend the Constitution. It asked the Head of State to set up a commission to make an inventory of provisions requiring revision.

In order to legitimize the revision of the Constitution, the government held up the report of the National Commission for Inter-Burundian Dialogue (CNDI). It said the majority of the participants in the dialogue wanted to put an end to the limit of two presidential terms.

The outcome of the crisis, caused by the announcement of the candidacy of Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April 2015, to another term is cumbersome.

In addition to the freezing of budgetary support, Burundian organizations for the defense of human rights count at least 1,000 deaths. 6,000 prisoners and more than 250,000 refugees have been identified by the UN agencies.


CNARED: “It is a declaration of war to the Burundian people.”

Jérémie MinaniPresident Nkurunziza’s announcement of a possible alternative term in 2020 only reinforces CNARED’s determination.
“In view of the madness of a man determined to bury the Arusha Agreement and the Constitution to stay in power, it seems to me that there is no choice but to use all means to thwart his plan”. This, in reality, risks plunging the country into chaos, into another civil war.

“Someone who decides to abolish the principle of limiting presidential terms to hold on to power is a declaration of war against the Burundian people.” Jérémie Minani, in charge of communication for the Opposition platform CNARED, calls for a coalition against the “fourth term” of Pierre Nkurunziza. “We must prevent this man from carrying out his plan.”

Willy Nyamitwe: “The president’s remarks were only hypotheses, we are not yet there.”

Willy NyamitweFor the Senior Adviser in charge of communication to the presidency, President Pierre Nkurunziza did not show the intention to hold on to power. He has only made hypotheses. “Let’s stop speculating, Cndd-Fdd party members have not yet met to rule on a likely candidacy of the president. In addition, there is a process of an inter-Burundi dialogue that is underway both inside and outside the country and the resulting population grievances will have to be taken into account in amending the constitution”.

To those who fear security problems that another term of Pierre Nkurunziza could raise, Willy Nyamitwe reassures: “Burundians know how to draw the lessons from the past.

No one wants to relive the crisis of 2015, when young people have been manipulated by individuals that fear neither God nor man and who do not want to respect the choice and will of the people”.

Agathon Rwasa: “He should stop attributing his intentions to the Burundians.”

Agathon RwasaThe First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly says that those who like to remain in power have the unfortunate habit of attributing their aim to the public. “May he stop attributing to the Burundians his own intentions.” For Agathon Rwasa, 15 years of rule over the country are ample. He says Cndd-Fdd party may end up lonely on the ground “while members of other political parties are facing intimidation and threats. According to him, the population may be forced to elect a candidate who is not of their choice just for fear of retaliation. “Or, because it was not possible to present alternations”.

Abel Gashatsi: “Uprona advocates respect for Arusha Agreement.”

Abel-Gashatsi-300x237The President of Uprona party says his party will look after its interests and those of the Nation. This requires compliance with the Arusha Agreement which has stabilized the country. He said that Uprona party would make sure that it would be represented in the Commission to revise the Constitution. “We will ensure that it includes all the values advocated by Uprona party.” The amended Constitution must be the one that reassures everyone and does not exclude anyone.

Gilbert Bécaud Njangwa: “A conventional solution to empty the question of term.”

Gilbert Bécaud NjangwaThe Commission that will be set up to study the provisions that can be revised will bring more clarity. “This will avoid the confusions of the present Constitution which have given rise to several interpretations.”

According to the President of the Center for Elections, it is only necessary that the revision of the Constitution be a conventional solution, that all the parties get together to avoid divisions on this issue. “The smooth running of an inter-Burundian dialogue should help all Burundians to work together on this sensitive issue.”

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya: “As a democrat, I believe two five-year terms are enough. “

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (2)“I have always said that when there are texts that need to be changed from the Constitution, we must reassure ourselves that we have the approval or the consensus of the whole of the political forces. “This former President of the Republic said that a unilateral approach should be avoided”. In my opinion, this should be one of the aspects that might interest the dialogue around the facilitation of President Mkapa. He, in conclusion, said: “Personally and as a democrat, I believe that two five-year terms are enough to achieve good things.”

Human Rights Watch

“Since President Pierre Nkurunziza has been in power, he has seriously failed to respect the human rights of Burundians,” said Ida Sawyer, Director for Central Africa at Human Rights Watch, contacted by Iwacu. “The President has preferred to subdue human rights defenders rather than listen to them.”

In addition, Ida Sawyer points out that “the Head of the National Intelligence Service, which runs an agency that has tortured many people, reports directly to Nkurunziza. The agents responsible for these abuses have never been brought to justice. “Is Nkurunziza, who is at the head of a country where so many human rights violations have taken place, still the appropriate person to exercise the functions of a President?”

Amnesty International

For Amnesty International, any major change in the Constitution, such as changing the limitation of terms, should be through a genuine consultative and inclusive process.

This organization, contacted by Iwacu, notes that this is not the time to consider such drastic changes. The government of Nkurunziza tightened its control and suppressed all forms of dissent in the country.

“With a large part of civil society and the opposition in exile, there is a real danger that the results will be unilateral and not inclusive.”