Return of CNARED, time for questions

The opposition coalition in exile, CNARED, has announced its willingness to return to the country to participate in the upcoming elections. The decision was praised by the power in place and seen as disconcerting by the opposition.

“We are preparing our return to participate in the 2020 elections.” The announcement was made by CNARED after months of silence. CNARED Executive Secretary, Anicet Niyonkuru, talks about a mature reflection during a meeting of the executive board of the platform from August 2nd to August 4th.
“Our activists in the country have decided that they will vote no matter what,” said the platform of the opposition in exile. For CNARED, giving another gift to CNDD-FDD by not participating in the elections is out of the question.

Only two political formations seem to be very active on the ground: The ruling party CNDD-FDD and the National Congress for Freedom-CNL.

The story of CNARED is far from being glorious. A rather mixed assessment for this group made up of personalities who have marked the contemporary Burundian history but who have not been able to capitalize their skills to meet the expectations of the population. Since then, many have left the platform, which was gradually falling down.

“If they don’t need that history repeats itself, they have to go back home to face the reality on the ground,” said a political scientist.

To back him up, Anicet Niyonkuru believes that “ten million Burundians who are in the country expect the change that we cannot make being abroad. Hence, the need for us to go back home.”

There is no longer any question of an inter-Burundian dialogue mediated by the sub-region or the African Union. The electoral period is fast approaching. For this to happen more quickly, CNARED has revised its ambitions. “Even if the government calls us to agree on guarantees in the presence of a third party as a witness tomorrow, we will return.” Guarantees requested are essentially ensuring their security, lifting arrest warrants for those who are accused of the failed coup d’état as well as the opening of the political space.

Flash of lucidity or political suicide?

Unless there a very unlikely event occurs, the 2020 elections will take place. The electoral calendar was drawn up and the electoral code and the budget to finance these elections were established as well. Everything seems to be set for Burundi to see the faces of its next institutions in a couple of months ahead. According to several observers, the great unknown remains the transparency and freedom to achieve credible elections.

The decision by CNARED to participate in the next election is like a double-edged sword. Which card would it play if it stayed in exile? The international community in general as well as the AU and EAC in particular, have shown their limit in helping to resolve the crisis. Gitega has saved time and continues its internal business without much pressure. Until now, there is little chance of seeing the international community active now.

The return of the personalities of CNARED to the country raises several questions, particularly the respect for the principles, values which constituted the base of this coalition.
What is certain is that Gitega will profit from their return to announce to the world that the crisis is over.

It’s unclear yet if the power in place will suspend legal proceedings against its opponents. Gitega power seems determined to do more to silence any inclination towards revolt and putsch.


Nancy Ninette Mutoni : ” They have duties towards their motherland and it is not abroad that they will fulfill them . ”

The ruling party’s Information and Communication Officer says that CNDD-FDD party has always called for the return of politicians in exile and refugees. “This has been said in all our press releases and communications,” says Nancy Ninette Mutoni. “We do not see why the sons and daughters of the nation would remain in exile. Whether they are politicians or not, they have duties towards their motherland and it is not abroad that they will fulfill them. ”



Charles Nditije: “For us, these people betrayed our cause.”

“We left CNARED because Mr. Minani and his companions had completely deviated from our political struggle, namely the struggle for the safeguarding of the Arusha Agreement and the restoration of the rule of law in Burundi, ” says the president of UPRONA party of the opposition, in exile.

According to him, members of CNARED negotiate their conditions of return and their rehabilitation in their property only in defiance of the peace and security of Burundians who suffer violence and misery. We cannot participate in elections which have as the legal framework the 2018 Constitution which finally buries the Arusha Agreement and establishes a de facto single party system. Moreover, existing political and security conditions do not allow for credible elections. For us, these people betrayed our cause and decided to put themselves under the allegiance of CNDD-FDD.

Gaston Sindimwo : “It will be a pleasure to welcome them ”

The First Vice-President of the Republic says it would be a pleasure to welcome the opponents who express the desire to return to the country. According to him, the Burundian government has repeatedly urged opponents and refugees in exile to return to contribute to the development of the country. “Let them answer our call now. Better late than never.” Gaston Sindimwo reassures these opponents on security guarantees.

“We are here to ensure the safety of all Burundians. Those in need of special protection request it and usually get it. Those who have returned from exile before them can testify that. ”
Frédéric Bamvuginyumvira : ” If they are tired, they may go back home . ”
For this political actor in exile, CNARED is in complete contradictions. “It is asking Gitega for clemency to cancel arrest warrants. But one cannot negotiate with the power they are supposed to fight. ”

This politician from Sahwanya FRODEBU party believes that another contradiction is in what Jean Minani, President of CNARED said. He said that if the Constitution is changed, this would be crossing the Rubicon, the red line. The referendum was held and CNARED decided to return. “Those who are tired and want to return are free to do so but without giving too many political speeches to justify their actions.” Those who want to continue with politics will organize themselves anew and fight for the future of their country. “We cannot pretend to return to Burundi and think of organizing a clear policy. Besides, even before their departure, were they active opponents or they were just playing the game of the power in place? ”

                                                                                              Story written by Agnès Ndirubusa and translated into English by

Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana