‘A True Patriot’: Buhari Condoles With Burundi Over Death Of President

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari
A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his “profound grief and sadness” over the death of Burundi’s President, Pierre Nkurunziza.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Buhari described Nkurunziza as “a true patriot that steered the country through turbulent times with wisdom and foresight.”

 

An evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to rule the East African nation, Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, when he was selected by parliament.

His controversial and ultimately successful bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

Violence left at least 1,200 people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands and the authorities carried out a sustained crackdown on the opposition and media.

His death comes on the heels of elections on May 20 in which his hand-picked successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye, secured a seven-year term as president — a result confirmed by the constitutional court last Thursday.

“At this time of great pain & loss, the Government and people of Nigeria as well as myself, express our deepest condolences to the Government and people of Burundi,” Buhari said. “Our thoughts & prayers also go out to the family of the President. May God grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.”

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza Dies Of Heart Attack

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019.
Tchandrou Nitanga / AFP.

 

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has died of heart failure, the government said Tuesday.

“The Government of the Republic of Burundi announces with great sadness the unexpected death of His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi… following heart failure on June 8, 2020,” it said in a post on its official Twitter account.

An evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to rule the East African nation, Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, when he was selected by parliament.

His controversial and ultimately successful bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

Violence left at least 1,200 people dead, displaced hundreds of thousands and the authorities carried out a sustained crackdown on the opposition and media.

His death comes on the heels of elections on May 20 in which his hand-picked successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye, secured a seven-year term as president — a result confirmed by the constitutional court last Thursday.

Ndayishimiye was due to be sworn in in August.

A statement from Burundi’s presidency on Tuesday said Nkurunziza was hospitalised over the weekend and that his health “abruptly changed” on Monday.

It said the country would observe seven days of mourning beginning Tuesday.

AFP

Burundi President Applauds Chosen Successor On Election Win

(FILES) Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019. Tchandrou Nitanga / AFP.

 

Burundi’s long-ruling leader Pierre Nkurunziza on Tuesday congratulated his hand-picked successor on a “large victory” in the presidential election, though the opposition has vowed to contest the result in court.

Election officials on Monday declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, a former army general chosen by the powerful ruling party as heir to Nkurunziza, the winner of the May 20 poll with 68.72 percent of the vote.

“I warmly congratulate the President-elect Gen. Major Evariste Ndayishimiye for his large victory which confirms that the great majority of Burundians adhere to the projects and the values he embodies,” Nkurunziza, who chose not to run after 15 years in power, posted on Twitter.

“We are privileged witnesses to history. May God bless Burundi!”

The strongest opposition candidate, Agathon Rwasa, came in a distant second with 24.19 percent of the vote, but his National Freedom Council (CNL) has rejected the results, alleging cheating by the governing CNDD-FDD party.

CNL spokesman Therence Manirambona said Monday his party was putting together a legal complaint to submit within days “so that the court can take a decision on the massive fraud that marked this electoral farce.”

The CNDD-FDD defeated the CNL by a similar margin in the legislative elections held the same day.

READ ALSO: Burundi’s Ruling Party Candidate Ndayishimiye Wins Election

No foreign observers were allowed into Burundi to keep an eye on the election process, which went ahead with scant regard to the coronavirus outbreak following a tense campaign marked by violence and arbitrary arrests.

Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005, and his final years in office have been wracked with turmoil.

His third-term election run in 2015 sparked violence which left at least 1,200 dead and pushed 400,000 to flee the country.

Burundi is tightly controlled by the ruling party and its youth wing has been linked to a forceful crackdown against the government’s critics.

State security forces have been accused by rights groups and the United Nations of crimes against humanity and abuses such as torture, disappearances, sexual violence and executions.

Ndayishimiye is set to inherit a deeply isolated country, under sanctions and cut off by foreign donors, its economy and national psyche damaged by the years of unrest.

It remains to be seen how much influence Nkurunziza will exert going forward, and how freely his successor can reign.

Nkurunziza was this year elevated by Burundi’s parliament to the rank of “supreme guide for patriotism” and he will continue to be chairman of the ruling party’s powerful council of elders.

Ndayishimiye is expected to be sworn in for a seven-year term in late August, when Nkurunziza’s term ends.

AFP

Burundi’s Ruling Party Picks Presidential Candidate

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019.  AFP

 

Burundi’s ruling party said Sunday that party leader General Evariste Ndayishimiye would stand as its candidate in a presidential election in May.

Ndayishimiye is an ally of current President Pierre Nkurunziza who will not seek a new mandate after his controversial election to a third term in 2015 plunged the country into crisis.

“Gen Evariste Ndayishimiye chosen to represent the CNDD-FDD at the 2020 presidential election,” the party tweeted during an extraordinary congress at which Nkurunziza was present.

Nkurunziza’s tenure has been marked by allegations of grave rights abuses and a crackdown on political freedoms.

Constitutional changes would have allowed him to stay in office until 2034, but he said in 2018 that he would not stand for re-election again.

Ahead of Sunday’s congress, Nkurunziza had announced “the beginning of a new page in the history of Burundi and the CNDD-FDD party”.

The violent aftermath of the last presidential election in 2015 made Burundi a focus of an investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged murders, rapes, tortures, and disappearances.

Civil unrest left 1,200 people dead and drove 400,000 from their homes.

Ndayishimiye, 52, is already a key member of Burundi’s ruling elite.

He has served as interior and security minister and chief of the president’s military and civilian cabinet.

Like the current president, Ndayishimiye emerged from rebellion movement against the ruling Tutsi community by ethnic Hutus who gained power after the country’s civil war, and was a key signatory of the 2003 ceasefire that ended the conflict.

“He’s an approachable, easygoing man, who likes to joke and laugh with his friends,” a friend who declined to be identified said of Ndayishimiye.

“But unlike Nkurunziza who is a composed, cold-blooded animal, Evariste Ndayishimiye is rather quick to anger and can lose his temper, with a risk of escalation,” the friend said.

A diplomatic source told AFP that Ndayishimiye had a reputation for “openness and honesty, unlike the other generals” having emerge from the civil war.

“He’s the best choice, but he will have a hard time prompting change and openness towards the opposition in a party that’s dominated by an extremist and sectarian current,” the diplomat said.

According to a newly-adopted law, Nkurunziza meanwhile is to stay in a newly-built luxury villa after he steps down, receive a one-off payment of close to $550,000 and a salary for the rest of his life.

It is unclear whether he will stay out of politics, but experts say he is likely to remain influential.

str-fal/jh/har

Burundi Approves Life Pension For Ex-Presidents Amid Poverty

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza gives a speech as he inaugurates the new state house constructed by the Chinese aid in Bujumbura, during its inauguration on September 27, 2019. AFP

 

Burundi lawmakers on Tuesday adopted legislation offering a golden parachute to outgoing presidents, including a luxury villa and a one-off sum equivalent to more than half a million dollars.

The move comes four months ahead of May 20 elections for which President Pierre Nkurunziza has said he will not run.

In 2015, his campaign for a third term plunged the country into violence and led to an enduring political crisis.

The new law states that at the end of the mandate, the president will receive “a luxury villa built with public funds in the location of his choice within five years, as well as a one-off allocation of one billion Burundian francs” ($530,000, 480,000 euros).

This amount is a fortune in Burundi where more than 65 per cent live in poverty and where 50 per cent of the country is food-insecure, according to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP).

The legislation, adopted with 98 votes for and two against, differentiates between former heads of state elected via universal suffrage — of which Nkurunziza is the only candidate — and those who came to power via peace deal or military coup.

“A president who came to power via the simple consensus of a group of politicians does not have the same regard as one who was democratically elected,” Justice Minister Aimee-Laurentine Kanyana told the national assembly.

The retired president will also get the same benefits as a serving vice-president for seven years after he steps down, and will for the rest of his life get an allowance equal to that of a lawmaker.

The cost and size of the villa that will be provided are not specified.

“The benefits that will be given to a president at the end of his mandate are exorbitant if one takes into account the crisis in the country, but it is a positive measure as it seems to indicate very clearly that Nkurunziza will in fact not run for the presidency,” a diplomat in Burundi told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Nkurunziza surprised observers when he announced he would not seek another term in office, despite a new constitution in 2018, adopted by referendum, allowing him to do so.

AFP

Burundian Schoolgirls Jailed For Scratching President’s Photo

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

Three teenage schoolgirls in Burundi have been sent to prison to await trial for scribbling on a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza in textbooks, activists said Thursday.

The girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, face up to five years in prison for insulting the head of state if found guilty.

Judges said the three girls should be “prosecuted for contempt of the head of state”, and ordered them to a juvenile section of a prison in the north of Burundi at Ngozi to await trial, said FENADEB, a civil society umbrella group of 48 organisations.

The trio has been in custody since March 12, when they were arrested with three other schoolgirls and a 13-year old boy. The boy was released immediately because he was below the age of criminal responsibility, while the three girls were released without charge.

READ ALSO: 12 Killed In Egypt Chemical Plant Blast

The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school, but teachers pointed out that the books are shared among all the pupils as there are not enough for everyone to have their own.

A judicial source, who called the case “very sensitive” and said it was overseen directly by the Attorney General, reported that the girls arrived at the prison on Wednesday afternoon.

It was not clear when they might face trial, but the father of one of the girls said they were already “too scared to eat”, according to Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In 2016, several schoolchildren were handed prison sentences for similar scribbles on the president’s face, and hundreds of pupils expelled, sparking an international outcry.

Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely-contested third term in office.

The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation.

“With so many real crimes being committed in Burundi, it’s tragic that children are the ones being prosecuted for harmless scribbles,” HRW’s Mudge added.

“Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles.”

AFP

Burundi President Promises To Step Down In 2020

(FILES)  Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. 
Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

Burundian President, Pierre Nkurunziza, said Thursday he would not run for another term, despite widespread belief that he backed a new constitution extending term limits in a bid to cling to power.

“I will not go back on my word. Our mandate ends in 2020,” Nkurunziza said in a speech to supporters and diplomats in the central region of Gitega.

His announcement came shortly after he signed into law a new constitution that could enable him to rule until 2034.

Describing himself as “Guide” of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, Nkurunziza said he would not seek re-election at the end of his current, controversial third term.

Nkurunziza’s decision to run for election in 2015 plunged Burundi into a deep and deadly political crisis, with opponents saying his candidacy went against a peace deal that had ended more than a decade of civil war.

Last month a constitutional referendum was held to extend presidential terms to seven years.

It was widely seen as a move paving the way for Nkurunziza to run for a further two terms under the new dispensation.

“The new constitution has not been tailored for Pierre Nkurunziza, as our enemies claim,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned, I am preparing to support, with all my strength, the new president who we are going to elect in 2020.”

AFP

Burundi To Hold Referendum, Plans Extending President’s Rule

A portrait of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is seen on a banner during a rally of the ruling CNDD-FDD party taking place three days prior to a referendum on a controversial constitutional reform on May 14, 2018, in Bujumbura. STRINGER / AFP

 

Burundians on Thursday will vote in a referendum on sweeping constitutional reforms that would shore up the power of President Pierre Nkurunziza and enable him to rule until 2034.

With opponents cowed, beaten, killed or living in exile, there seems little doubt the amendments will pass, enabling the 54-year-old — in power since 2005 — to remain in charge for another 16 years.

The campaign period, like the preceding three years of unrest triggered by Nkurunziza’s controversial but ultimately successful run for a third term, has been marked by intimidation and abuse, say human rights groups.

Opposition parties were allowed to rally for the first time since the start of the political crisis in 2015, drawing massive crowds during their “no” campaigns.

But critics say this was merely to provide a veneer of inclusivity.

“People seen as opposed to the referendum have been killed, kidnapped, beaten up, illegally arrested and held by state agents,” the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) said Tuesday.

Some 4.8 million people, or a little under half the population, have signed up to vote, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which is running the referendum.

The changes will be adopted if more than 50 percent of cast ballots are in favour.

The vote is taking place in tightly-controlled conditions, and a presidential decree ruled earlier this month that anyone advising voters to boycott the vote risks up to three years in jail.

 Small country, big problems 

The tiny central African nation, with an equally small economy, has struggled to recover from a brutal and destructive civil war from 1993-2006 that left more than 300,000 people dead.

A peace deal, signed in the Tanzanian city of Arusha in 2000, paved the way to ending the fighting and included a provision that no leader could serve more than two five-year terms.

Nkurunziza circumvented that clause by running for a third term in 2015 that critics said was unconstitutional. A crackdown on opponents of his bid prompted a crisis that has seen 1,200 people killed and 400,000 flee their homes.

The violence and abuses are being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) while a sustained campaign against the press has forced most independent journalists to leave the country.

Nkurunziza — a fervent Christian who believes he has a God-given right to rule and was recently declared “visionary” by his CNDD-FDD party — now wants to rewrite the constitution and extend term lengths to seven years.

This would allow him to start again from scratch after the 2020 elections.

Other reforms weaken constitutional constraints over the feared national intelligence agency and allow the revision of ethnic quotas seen as crucial to peace after the war.

The new constitution also gets rid of one of two vice-presidents and shifts powers from the government to the president.

Burundi‘s exiled opposition, gathered in an alliance called CNARED, has called for a boycott of the referendum, which it describes as the “death knell” to the 2000 agreement that helped end the bloody civil war.

The government has accused dissidents, and neighbouring countries, of planning to undermine the referendum and has deployed military units to areas bordering Rwanda to the north and Congo to the west.

Earlier this month Burundi‘s press regulator suspended broadcasts by the BBC and Voice of America (VOA) and warned other radio stations, including Radio France International (RFI), against spreading “tendentious and misleading” information.

 African ‘third term-ism’ 

Amending constitutions to stay in power while holding the regular elections that foreign donors demand is a popular tactic among African leaders.

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni changed the law in 2005 before running successfully for a third term. The 73-year-old has since removed age limits and is expected to run for a sixth term in 2021.

Cameroon’s Paul Biya followed Museveni’s lead in 2008 and remains in power today, as does Djibouti’s Ismael Omar Guelleh who removed term limits in 2010.

In Rwanda, Paul Kagame in 2015 changed the constitution and is now set to rule until 2034 while Congo-Brazzaville’s Denis Sassou Nguesso also pushed through the removal of term limits the same year.

Zambia’s Edgar Lungu is trying the third term gambit, while in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila has simply refused to hold elections since the end of his constitutional terms 18 months ago.

Elsewhere in Africa, leaders have had less success avoiding term limits, with moves blocked or votes lost in Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Senegal in the last dozen years.

AFP

Burundi Sets May 17 For Vote On Contested Reforms

 

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has set May 17 as the date for a referendum on a controversial constitutional reform that could keep him in power until 2034, according to a decree signed Sunday.

Critics accuse Nkurunziza of trying to stay in power for life and say a personality cult has developed around the former rebel chief who has led the central African country since 2005.

The government in October drafted reforms that would enable Nkurunziza to serve two seven-year mandates from 2020, but they have come under fire from the opposition and the international community, particularly the African Union.

The opposition says the changes could sign the death warrant for the Arusha peace accord of 2000, which helped end a 1993-2006 civil war that claimed more than 300,000 lives.

Nkurunziza ran for a third five-year term and was re-elected in 2015 despite a two-term limit under the constitution, triggering violence that left at least 1,200 people dead and sent more than 400,000 Burundians fleeing abroad.

The government had previously announced that the referendum would take place in May but had not announced the exact date.

The reforms will be adopted if 50 percent plus one vote cast ballots in favour.

Sunday’s decree said those wanting to take part in the official campaign must register with the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) between March 23 and April 6, but no-one is yet allowed to publicly declare themselves for or against the reforms.

The opposition has denounced what it describes as double standards, saying that ministers and officials with the ruling CNDD-FDD have openly campaigned for a Yes vote, while several dozen opposition activists have been arrested for pushing for a No vote.

The election commission announced last month that more than five million people had registered for the referendum and for the next election in 2020.

UN Agree To Send Police To Burundi

united nations, BurundiThe United Nation’s Security Council has agreed to send its police force to Burundi in other to subdue the violence and human right abuses in the country.

More than 400 people have been killed in unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term in office last April.

More than 200,000 people have fled their homes.

“Given an increase in violence and tension, the Security Council must have eyes and ears on the ground to predict and ensure that the worst does not occur in Burundi,” French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told Reuters.

“This is a strong act of preventative diplomacy,” he added.

Burundi earlier said it would accept no more than 50 police officers.

The government of Burundi earlier warned that it would agree to no more than 50 UN police officers.

Diplomats are now negotiating how to implement the UN Security Council’s resolution.

Although both Burundi’s opposition and government forces are ethnically mixed, some fear that the violence could descend into a repeat of the genocidal killings which the country has previously experienced.

Burundi President Condemns Killing Of General

Pierre-NkurunzizaThe President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, has condemned the killing of a senior army officer shot along with his wife and bodyguard in an attack that also wounded their child.

The attack is the latest in an expanding wave of violence in the central African nation that heightened after Nkurunziza declared his interest in a third term in office.

A spokesman for the Army, Gaspard Baratuza, told reporters that Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza, who was a military adviser in the office of the vice president, was dropping his child off at a school in the capital Bujumbura on Monday when his car was attacked by rocket and gun fire.

Kararuza had previously worked as a deputy commander of an international peace force in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“He energetically fought against the coup plotters last year and exceptionally contributed in strengthening peace and security during and after elections,” Nkurunziza said in a statement late on Monday.

“We humbly pray that, with the help of God, perpetrators of the shameful acts are arrested and quickly punished according to the law.”

Reuters reports that tit-for-tat attacks between Nkurunziza’s security forces and his opponents have escalated since April 2015 when he announced a disputed bid for a third term as president. He won re-election in July.

The United Nations says more than 400 people have been killed and more than 250,000 have fled the country.

Burundi and neighbouring Rwanda, which both have an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority, have been torn apart by ethnic conflict in the past. Experts fear the recent violence during the political crisis in Burundi may reopen old ethnic wounds and risk causing civil war.

UN Approves Police Force For Burundi

United nationsThe United Nations (UN) Security Council is making moves to prevent the Burundi crisis from getting worse.

In order to ensure that, the council has approved a resolution to pave the way for a UN police force to be deployed in Burundi.

The resolution, drafted by France, calls on UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon to draw up a list of options for the proposed presence within 15 days.

The resolution welcomed the consent of Burundi’s authorities to increase the number of African Union human rights observers from 100 to 200 and allow 100 AU military experts.

It notes that 30 human rights observers and 15 military observers have been deployed so far.

The final draft was changed to overcome an objection from the United States.

The United States had been concerned about linking the United Nations efforts to broker peace in Burundi with the country’s security forces, who have been accused of human rights abuses, one council diplomat said.

The United Nations said in January it has documented cases of Burundi’s security forces gang-raping women during searches of opposition supporters’ houses and heard witness testimony of mass graves.

The East African country has been hit by unrest since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to seek a third term. He went on to win his third term bid in an election in July.