“Edouard Nduwimana elected as Ombudsman”

On Monday, 21 November, Edouard Nduwimana, was elected by the National Assembly as the new Burundi Ombudsman. 106 MPs voted for him, 9 against and one abstention. An aberration for some and satisfaction for others.

Edouard Nduwimana committed himself to performing his duties honestly and impartially.

Edouard Nduwimana committed himself to performing his duties honestly and impartially.

On Tuesday, 22 November, inside the Kigobe Congress Hall, a day like no other. MPs were dressed in suits and ties and other festive ornaments. The hall was decorated in red, green and white. Dignitaries and some western diplomats were also there. We were told of the presence of a former president of the Comoros Islands. People were kowtowing to each other here and there. The place was full of laughter.

What does the Constitution say about the institution of the Ombudsman?

Article 237 states that the Ombudsman receives complaints and investigates misconduct and violations of citizens’ rights committed by public officials and the judiciary. It makes recommendations to the competent authorities. The same article indicates that the Ombudsman also mediates between the administration and the citizens and between the ministries and the administration. The Ombudsman acts as an observer in the functioning of the public administration. With a non-renewable six-year term in office under section 238, he gives an annual report to both the National Assembly and the Senate.

Edouard Nduwimana, new Ombudsman, took the oath. A hand on the national flag and that of Unity, before the President of the Republic and parliamentarians, he undertook to obey the Constitution and the laws of the Burundian people. He also promised to perform his duties honestly and impartially. He then signed to make his appointment effective.

In the first place, Mr. Nduwimana was congratulated by the President of the Republic before blowing a kiss to his wife’s lips, what made the room laugh, including the Burundian president. Applause and comments erupted as well: “In front of the president, really?! “, “So what? “” Pretty! Some personalities murmured.

Small group were discussing outside the hall. “Nduwimana is at the origin of the [Nyakurization]: he split political parties into two”, declared someone to his friend. “You mean that he destroyed these political parties and that he brought them to heel?”, asked the other. His friend said: “He is a master in the art of putting oil on the fire, but there, he is instead asked to act as a firefighter.”

On Monday, November 21, his election was special with only one candidate. Members were asked to write Yes or No. Thus, a secret ballot.

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“A dangerous man”

“An insult to this function and to the country,” said Jérémie Minani, communication commissioner for Cnared Gira Iteka, the opposition platform. According to him, the past of the newly elected Ombudsman is marked by his role in “Nyakurization” i.e. splitting religious denominations, civil society organizations, the disappearance of civil liberties, and so on. “He is a dangerous man who should not be elected to the post of mediator of the nation,” he warned. For him, Nduwinana’s election is a gesture of thanks to him for the role he played in the repression of the protesters against the 3rd term.

“He will be judged by his actions”

Jean De Dieu Mutabazi, president of the Alliance of Burundi Democrats (RADEBU) says his election can allow the Burundian people to be optimistic. “We believe he will do better than his predecessor because he will not have any safety or health problems like him.” This pro-government opponent says the new Ombudsman should be judged by his actions at the end of his term.

“We must not consider his past”

Abel Gashatsi, President of Uprona party, appeals to Burundians not to be prisoners of the past. Gashatsi says Nduwimana’s role in dividing political parties, religious denominations, etc. has not been proved. Mr. Gashatsi hopes that the new Ombudsman can be on the sidelines and work for the national interest.

“We do not expect anything good from him”

“MPs would have done a good thing if they had elected him as president of the Cndd-Fdd party but not as Ombudsman,” said Léonce Ngendakumana, vice-president of Sahwanya Frodebu party. He accuses the Ombudsman of working much more for the party than for the country.

This dissident goes back to some qualities of an Ombudsman: “An honest, impartial, unifying and independent man”.
He wondered how Mr. Nduwimana, who had distinguished himself in the “Nyakurization” of political parties, civil society organisations, could manage conflicts between the state and the unions, students, politicians and so on. To those who hope for a change in his behavior, Mr. Ngendakumana does not delude himself: “It will be a miracle as in the days of Jesus Christ.”

“A very strong personality”

Philippe Nzobonariba, secretary and spokesman for the government describes the new mediator of the Republic as a very strong personality, who does not hesitate when it comes to making a decision. “I know Edouard Nduwimana is one of those folks who work hard and who do not drag their feet on any issue.”
Referring to his professional career, he hoped that he would live up to his task. He says the accusations against the new ombudsman are baseless: “Burundian politicians have the habit of wrongly accusing somebody especially when they are short of arguments”.

“Ombudsman must bring citizens together”

“All we need from him is to build the bridges where there are walls and separations,” said Evariste Ngoyagoye, Archbishop of Bujumbura. This institution was set up to bring citizens together around a common cause.
This prelate indicates that this institution has the task of finding solutions through the dialogue in the case of conflicts.

To do this, the new ombudsman must be impartial and honest.

“A patriot”

According to Cheikh Sadiki Abdallah Kajandi, President of the Muslim Community of Burundi (COMIBU), the new Ombudsman is an effective person: “He is known for his sense of doing well his work, a patriot, receptive to others and someone who knows how to handle conflicts.”

The fight of “Doudou” for Cndd-Fdd

A minister who breaks everything, an opportunist, a man of intrigues for some, hardworking and partial for others. The character of the new mediator of the Republic, Edouard Nduwimana, is controversial. Iwacu returns to his “works”…

Edouard Nduwimana was the first to announce the candidacy of Pierre Nkurunziza for the third controversial term. On 21 March 2014, the bill on the revision of the Constitution was rejected in the Parliament. He lost his self-control and went so far as to announce that the President of the Republic was still holding the referendum card. He said the proposals that would be put to the vote of the population would be other than those included in the rejected bill. The opposition launched a bitter attack on him.

“What we are saying today is that there are people who want to believe that the issue of another term is over. This is not true. What I advise the politicians who are going to be candidates for the presidency is to prepare themselves knowing that they will have the current president in front of them as candidate.
It will be up to the Constitutional Court to decide in one way or another and the Burundians will have to respect this decision, “said Edouard Nduwimana nervously. The opposition became angry. Excessive zeal or a much controlled “slip up”?

“Edouard Nduwimana has always served as a pawn to launch messages reflecting the will of the President of the Republic as the interior minister. In short, it is he who always launched warning signs”, said Chauvineau Mugwengezo.
“The Minister of Interior put an end to a hypocritical language,” said Pacifique Nininahazwe.

Even his political party challenged the legitimacy of his statement. “Cndd-Fdd has not yet presented the candidate for the 2015 elections to the Minister of the Interior or his services,” spokesman of the then party Onésime Nduwimana said. Pierre Nkurunziza’s spokesman, Léonidas Hatungimana, insists that only the Cndd-Fdd party has the prerogative to choose a candidate for the 2015 presidential elections.

Confused, “Doudou” tried to catch up, but made matters worse. “I did not announce the candidacy … I simply gave advice to politicians because we can foresee things in politics”.

The “nyakurisation”, his work?

“This means that there will be no dialogue, because he is a man who has illustrated himself by practices aimed at dividing and breaking opposition parties and CSOs,” Chauvineau Mugwengezo said when Edouard Nduwimana was appointed as Minister of Interior in 2010.

Throughout his tenure as the Interior Minister, he was always accused of being at the head of the “Nyakurization” of political parties such as Agathon Rwasa’s Fnl, Uprona, Frodebu and Upd -Zigamibanga, giving their directions to militants close to the ruling Cndd-Fdd party.

Minister Nduwimana also recognized, if not appointed Emmanuel Miburo, “successor” of Agathon Rwasa as FNL leader, as a leader of the extra-parliamentary opposition. The latter referred to that as a stab. It believed it was up to it to choose its leader.

The situation was not easy for civil society during the reign of Edouard Nduwimana. He informed civil society organizations that his ministry would conduct an administrative and financial audit concerning their operations from March 2013. “We will be there only to verify the respect for good governance that you advocate all the time,” Nduwimana said.
Civil society organizations stepped into the breach. They indicated that this financial inspection had no legal basis.

From the “nyakurisation” of political parties, he will be accused of creating civil society by the creation of a civil society pro-Cndd-Fdd.

Journalists were not spared. He declared himself against the weekly demonstrations of journalists in support of Hassan Ruvakuki. He judged the protests as illegal, and the dispersal of protesters in violence in February 2013 was, for him, legal.

In November 2014, addressing representatives of religious denominations, he warned some media accused of exaggerating the facts that create panic among the population by insisting on information related to security. On 27 April 2015, he was at the forefront of the closing of the African Public Radio (RPA).

From blunders to blunders

Before the followers of Euzébie, he makes remarks that shocked more than one

Before the followers of Euzébie, he makes remarks that shocked more than one

Nduwimana’s list of blunders is long. Let us mention some of the most emblematic. In 2013, as the Central Market of Bujumbura was set ablaze and merchants mourning about their possessions, Nduwimana’s statement over this tragedy aroused indignation and questioning.

In front of the National Assembly, during a session of oral questions, Edouard Nduwimana dealt the death-blow to Burundians: “For those who believe in God, the luck can arise from the hindrances that tie you up. Maybe God wants us to have a quality market in the country “, he said.

By declaring that the fire of the market was of divine origin, he turned the knife in the wounds of several Burundians, with an abject cynicism.

Two months later he committed the second offence. His remarks in Businde on 12 March 2013 in his native province of Kayanza outraged more than one: “You wanted martyrs, here they are!” He said that in front of the bodies of seven adepts of “Euzébie Ngendakumana, alias Zebiya, killed by the police. Several politicians and members of civil society condemned his statement. He ended up apologizing.