“When time for change comes, no one will stop it”

Bujumbura Mayor has banned the official opening of the national office of the National Congress for Liberty- CNL party, on March 3, for “security reasons”. Agathon Rwasa, CNL Chairman, says it is an “unfounded ban”.

How do you react to the ban on the opening of your national headquarters?

First of all, it’s disappointing. A lot of energy was concentrated for the preparations. And now, at the last minute, everything is torpedoed. Even if it doesn’t please some people, our activities are already launched. Prohibition is itself a communication that activities have started. It rather produces an opposite effect. This does not prevent us from operating. There are many activities to do throughout the country and so we continue our activities despite this unfounded ban.

You say unfounded ban?

The security reasons raised are unfounded, especially as UPRONA party conducted activities in Kamenge area of Ntahangwa urban commune, in the north of the commercial capital Bujumbura on last Saturday. Our permanent office is on “Boulevard de l’UPRONA”, a few hundred meters from the office of the Presidency. How can it alone constitute a security threat while in the same perimeter, there are other buildings operating 24 hours a day? There are even bars on the boulevard. Which is this threat that comes from nowhere ?

What is the meaning of that?

I think these are reasons for political protectionism. It is well known that in this country the trend has been one-sided for a number of years. As we are approaching the elections, we close the political space rather than opening it.

Police “pickup” vehicles have been seen running around your permanent office and residence. Do you feel you are kept under surveillance?
There are some who are very zealous. If that’s their way of ensuring safety, let them do it. As long as I have internal security and I fully obey the law, I feel calm.

Is this ban a bad omen for the run-up to the 2020 elections?

It could be said so. Nevertheless, we cannot give up. After all, it’s a struggle. We cannot give them the pretext for a blind repression against our militants. We prefer to keep a low profile.

Any message to your supporters?

It’s not just for our followers. Burundians must know that in a state of law all citizens are equal before the law. There is no super citizen. We must fight peacefully. We must avoid any kind of violence or provocation. What is needed is patience that pays for sure. Those who are for change are numerous. When time for change comes, no one will stop it.


In the era of permanent transgression

From the post-demonstrations period of April-May 2015, power at all levels has claimed that security prevails throughout the country. This is reflected in the press releases of the National Security Council chaired by the Head of State. This ban on a public meeting of CNL, which is at fewer meters of the Republic Presidency’s buildings, illustrates the national news dominated by the unpredictability of the attack.

This takes the form of delaying tactics when it targets CNL taken as the alternative to CNDD-FDD. “We do not lose heart. We are in a fight, we must persevere”, the First Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly told RFI, on March 3. This summarizes the position of the principle of CNL leader vis-à-vis the party of the Eagle, since its “public reappearance” in Burundi, on 6 August 2013.

This is the art of the opposite at work, adopted by the National Congress for Freedom “Ubugabo si urucumu” from its very first steps in the evening of Valentine’s Day. Six members were arrested on Muyange hill, Mugina commune, Cibitoke province, raising their elbows to celebrate this first step towards the preparation of the 2020 elections. They are accused of holding an illegal meeting in the night.

An irrepressible force

Another similar case this day of approval of CNL party is very important.. Shabani and Bonaventure, CNL representatives in Mugeni area of Kayogoro commune in Makamba province, were arrested on February 14, in a bar on Kabizi hill by the chief of the latter, flanked by Imbonerakure. They are suspected of being involved in the murder of Raphael Bazahica, a resident of Butare hill in Kayogoro commune.
In the night of Sunday February 17, Léonidas Congera, a resident of Bweru commune, Muyinga province, was beaten to death. MP Pascal Bizumuremyi said he was beaten by a group of Imbonerakure guided by Dieudonné Ncamwaka also known as “Major”.

Another CNL follower was detained on Friday 1 March in Nyamurenza commune in Ngozi province. He was accused of having urged other militants to go to Bujumbura, the commercial capital to attend the official opening of their national headquarters.

In the night of March 6, three CNL followers from Cunyu hill in Buganda commune of Cibitoke province were seriously beaten by Imbonerakure youth. They were accused of holding illegal meetings.

Another lesson to be drawn from this prohibition of the public meetings of CNL party: the irrepressible force of the unpredictability of the attack. The arrow thus unchecked – origin not always clearly identified – can hardly be deviated from its target in the respect for one of the public and political freedoms considered fundamental, the right of holding meetings.

Written by Arnaud Igor Iteriteka and Guibert Mbonimpa

translated by Diane Uwimana

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