Article written

  • on 31.08.2015
  • at 06:27 PM
  • by Naomi Cohen

The true price of Nkurunziza’s third term 0

On Thursday 20 August, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza surprised many when he was sworn in for his third mandate six days before the inauguration was scheduled to take place.

The move came days after leaders of the opposition group CNARED (National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Accord) gave him until 26 August to resign. The surprise inauguration sent a clear message that Nkurunziza’s camp has no intention to further discuss the legitimacy of a third mandate.

Burundi’s electoral crisis takes place alongside an interesting realignment of its political landscape: former foes have joined forces, while allies can’t find ways to sustain partnerships. During the 2010 elections, the Tutsi-dominated Union for National Progress (UPRONA) party led by Charles Nditije turned away from the opposition, which had boycotted the elections, and participated in the electoral process. As a result, they were awarded key seats in Parliament and important government posts.

A few years later, Nditije was pushed out of the government by Nkurunziza and replaced by the more amenable Concilie Nibigira, who happily took over the leadership of the party in government .Nditije then turned to Agathon Rwasa, his former enemy and head of a radical Hutu group, to form a political alliance.

Today Concilie’s UPRONA finds itself on the losing end of the electoral process and its alliance with the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), as contested results of the parliamentary elections saw the party awarded only two seats.

Meanwhile, the Rwasa-Nditije coalition, which had effectively boycotted the elections, won over 20 seats. But that coalition seems to have since faltered as Agathon Rwasa, Nkurunziza’s most viable rival, decided to join Parliament with other members of the National Liberation Front (FNL), while Nditije and its allies refused to take their seats in protest of the electoral process.

Often forgotten from the narrative is the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi–Nyakuri (FRODEBU-Nyakuri) of Jean Minani, which was until recently known as an ally to the CNDD-FDD. In 2010, FRODEBU-Nyakuri joined the CNDD-FDD and UPRONA by participating in the elections and won five seats in parliament. However, the party chose to boycott these last legislative elections.

Equally interesting is the fact that CNARED unites under its umbrella defectors of the CNDD-FDD, other opposition parties, and members of civil society, continuing the blurring of the lines between political and apolitical groups.

A number of African ambassadors attended Nkurunziza’s inauguration ceremony – notably from Tanzania, Kenya and Egypt – along with others from China and Russia. Also in attendance was South African Deputy Minister of Security, Ellen Molekane. The Catholic Church, which vehemently opposed Nkurunziza’s third mandate, was represented by Monseigneur Rugerinyange Anatole.

Finally, some members of the Amizero y’Abarundi political coalition, including now Deputy Head of Parliament, Agathon Rwasa, were also present. Former enemies Nkurunziza and Rwasa exchanged a warm embrace, which appeared to cement Rwasa’s decision to engage with the ruling party.

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by Yolande Bouka

Photo Credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA

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