President Nkurunziza chastises Burundi’s ruling elite

In a rare moment of passion, the president reminded his audience that the nation comes before the party and criticised them for failing to put Burundi first.

cnddPresident Nkurunziza has chastised some of the top members of his party for malpractice and told them to act in a way that is consistent with what is expected of a nation’s leaders.

On Thursday afternoon, the president participated in a thanksgiving mass his CNDD- FDD party had organized to celebrate the survival in the face of strong opposition during and after the 2015 election campaign. Elite members of the CNDD-FDD party gathered at the national party’s headquarters in Bujumbura. President Nkurunziza was among the personalities scheduled to speak.

The president emphasized that his third term was dedicated to God and criticised the behaviour of his ruling elite. “It is us who are held accountable for whatever happens in the country: the problems of water or drought, or flood or fraud or corruption call us to give account for them,” he said. But “those who take second wives, those who separate spouses, those who make school children pregnant, those who steal medicines are among you,” he said.

Nkurunziza used his speech to tell a recent story about a person to whom he had given construction materials. The unnamed person then attempted to illicitly acquire the sole property of two orphans to build his house.

“It’s likely that people who act like that are among you here,” he said.

“True religion looks after orphans and widows. But you oppress them,” he said, in his sermon-like speech.

“There are things God does not want us to do,” he said. “Let’s show the people who voted for us that we deserved it!”

He went on to criticize those who do not obey orders, those who steal, and those who are involved in the illegal trafficking of coffee and minerals such as coltan.

“When we tell someone ‘it’s forbidden to give yourself more money or other things’, we later find out that he stealthily tripled what he gives himself,” said the president.

“We take the decision to stop the illegal trafficking [of mineral and coffee], but we are surprised to find that those we catch are Abagumyabanga [members of CNDD-FDD],” he said.

Léonidas Hatungimana, the exiled former spokesman for President Nkurunziza who disagreed with his third term, says there are positive aspects of what the president has said, but he does not hope for any effect.

“What he said will not bring about positive change amongst his top leaders, because those he was talking to know he himself does not keep his word,” he says.

As in illustration, Hatungimana says the President had promised national party leaders that he would not act against the constitution and seek a third term, but he did not keep the promise.

“When his attempt to have the constitution changed failed, he should have kept his promise and stepped down. But he didn’t,” he says.

Hatungimana says that the president just wanted to look like he was taking some action. He says the president’s words are similar to his zero tolerance policy (2010), and the promise of setting up a toll-free number for the public to report any act of corruption: promises that remained unfulfilled.

Tatien Sibomana, another political opponent, says, “it’s not the President’s lamentations that matter to Burundians. It’s rather actions to fight the problems.” Actually addressing the problems is “obviously far from being the preoccupation of men and women in the government,” he says.