Exclusive interview with Agathon Rwasa :”Why seeking to bring back single party system?”

The First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly goes back over the current issues at the beginning of this pre-election year. He expresses himself about the state of play on the approval of his new political party , the electoral code, his participation in the next elections, the life of his supporters in the provinces, the inter- Burundian dialogue , etc.

After the rejection of the approval of your new party, did you conform to the requirements?

First of all, I must say we have never been against the requirements being talked about. We consulted the law before doing anything. In our country, those in power seek to cut others off from the road to power. Otherwise, how can it be said that the name is the same because there are letters that are alike with different meanings? I do not think there could be any confusion between National Front for Freedom and National Forces for Liberation. It’s not copy-paste. Simply, the ruling CNDD-FDD wants to monopolize the political space. This attitude does not help us to move forward. Democracy implies pluralism and complementarity. CNDD-FDD should know that it should not hold hostage our country.

The Burundian President has said that the ball is in your court now. How far is the situation now?
I was very surprised by the words of the Head of State. Since November 14, 2018, everything we were asked to change was done. It was in 2019 that we were told that we still need to change the phrase Amizero y’Abarundi.

The latter would be owned by another party. It is unbelievable because we participated in the 2015 elections with this term. No political party has raised its fingers to accuse us that we would have stolen names. These are just delaying tactics. We do not want to make wars based on “naming”. We changed the name. We are waiting for the reaction of the Ministry of the Interior.

What are your apprehensions in relation to the new electoral code draft?

I have always said and I will not stop repeating that the power in place seeks to exclude some to associate others. It is sectarianism. The national interest should take precedence over everything. Everyone should be involved in the elaboration of the electoral code. Why making the electoral code a prerogative of CNDD-FDD and its allies? This does not bode well for the flourishing of democracy in our country.

Any comment on the provisions of the electoral code?

In a country where the right to meet activists is systematically violated, an election campaign should not last two weeks. If the party has spent 5 years campaigning, it should not impose tight deadlines for others, especially since the polls will be combined. In addition, the treatment that the new code reserves for the independents is unfair.

A kind of double standard?

Absolutely. At the launch of the referendum campaign, an article of the Constitution (171 if I my memory serves me well) treated the lists of independents and political parties equally. But during the promulgation of the new Constitution, things suddenly changed.

Discrimination was inserted. For the political parties and their coalitions, the article stipulates that 2% of the votes cast at the national level for one seat are required. While for the independents, no more question of list, and they will need 40% of the votes at the level of the constituency. The base of counting is national for some and provincial for others. Will there be two parliaments? A provincial and national one? Personally, I don’t get it. Excluding people on the basis of the law is not far from apartheid.

What is the situation of your activists on the ground?

It is difficult to do politics without the blessing of the ruling party. There are reports of violence and arrests against people who do not adhere to the presidential party here and there. How far will this political intolerance go? Why do they want to restore a single party system while the texts allow political pluralism? This attitude blocks the development of this country.

Where is your follower Pierre Célestin Ndikumana?

Honorable Ndikumana had problems with the ruling power. He is accused of hatching a plot to assassinate the country’s highest authorities. This is a serious issue, especially since he is accused of having connived with domestic workers. With the lifting of his immunity, he could no longer do his job freely. Currently, he is no longer in Burundi.

The inter-Burundian dialogue is almost deadlocked and the EAC Summit of the Heads of State is approaching. Is an inclusive dialogue between the majority and opposition an impossible mission?
This is not an impossible mission. It’s just a question of will on both sides. It is the responsibility of the Heads of State to convince both parties to sit down together.

Otherwise, it would be a shame that a dialogue they sponsor fizzles out, and that because of the boycott of only one party. It is embarrassing to see that some Burundians deny the crisis and avoid holding dialogue with their fellow country people.

Some defections are observed within CNARED. Bad news or simple political reconfiguration in exile?
The separation is never good. I am not aware of the deeper reasons for their dissensions. However, even if it would be a reconfiguration, it cannot be just a sudden release on social media. For the rest, I hope that they are always trying to contribute to a better Burundi.

Will you be a candidate in the 2020 elections ?

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its Article 3 stipulates that everyone has the right to elect and to be elected. And the constitution implicitly recognizes this pact. So it’s our right to participate in the 2020 elections. It does not matter what situation we are in. It is by this means that we can contribute to the changes of the situation in this country.

Interview by Arnaud Igor Giriteka translated by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana