The on-going violent demonstrations in Burundi are a testament to the people’s resolve to resist any form of rape on their democracy by the incumbent President Pierre Nkurrunzizza.
It is no longer news that Nkurrunziza who took over power in 2005 at the end of the civil war in that country intends to contest for a third term in office. His supporters argue that due to the fact that he was not elected in 2005 (Nkurrunzizza was appointed as President by the parliament in 2005 and contested for the position of President for the first time in 2010), he is technically at the end of his first tenure in office and not the second term, contrary to the postulations of the opposition.
Consequently, he has been nominated by his party the CNDD-FDD for the presidential elections coming up sometime in the year. The fallout of this development is predicated on Nkurriziza’s failed attempt in 2014 to tinker with the Constitution so as to extend his stay in power. This move was viciously resisted by over 40 opposition political parties and human rights bodies in the country.
Now, you will agree with me that every situation has its peculiarity. To this extent therefore, Burundi is a very peculiar case. Infact, its unique status of ethnic diversity triggered the civil war of the 90’s and early 2000s.The ethnic divide of the country is mainly between the majority Hutu tribe and the minority Tutsi: this divide has formed the socio-political and economic landscape of the people for years. In 1972, the father of the present President Nkurrunziza, who was then a Governor, was killed in what is today known as the 1972 massacre of ethnic Hutus. Before then, the Burundian Army was dominated by minority Tutsis who used their military advantage to overwhelm the majority Hutus. Precisely, the Civil War of the 90s was sparked by the 1993 killing of President Melchoir Ndadaye who was of Hutu ancestry. This led to numerous atrocities, including the killing of over 300,000 persons. However, over time, things have changed being that the Burundian Army is now ethnically mixed as stipulated by the nation’s Constitution, adopted as part of the peace process.
From the foregoing, the complex situation begins to unfold. Burundi is indeed a nation that sits on a keg of gun-powder. Thus, it behooves on any sane leader of such a country to display uncommon sense of wisdom and guile in its affairs. Otherwise, he stands the risk of plunging the country into unknown territory of devastating proportions.
I must state here, that the issue is basically legal; with interested parties haven approached the nation’s Constitutional court for legal interpretation. A few days ago, the Constitutional court returned a verdict and ruled that the President can run for another term. Not a surprise. Expectedly, supporters of the opposition parties who never trusted the weak judiciary to rule against the personal aspirations of the President are once more on the streets of Burundi in another round of violence. To them, the President cannot have a third term in office.
Now, to be more solution-oriented (which is one of the set objectives and focus of the geraldtimes.com crew) this discourse proffers two ideas in this regard.
First, President Nkunriziza must listen to the voices of his people he claims to cherish dearly. He cannot love them more than they do themselves. That will be outrageously hypocritical to say the least. Reports from the streets in the capital, Bujumbura indicate that protesting students are being killed by the Police. These men are seen shooting sporadically at protesters using live bullets. These acts of barbarism must be stopped forthwith as they are bound to trigger-off fierce hostilities. Similarly, the clampdown on the media and students must be condemned. As I write this, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter signals have been shut-down by government forces who perceive these instruments as “terrorism threats”. University students are under threat with most of them electing to seek refuge at the United States embassy in the capital as they feel insecure from government forces.
President Nkunriziza must seize this opportunity to display his born-again status (he actually refers to himself as a “born-again” Christian) and show to the world that he is a true adherent to the Holy Scriptures that states: “what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul…what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.” These are vital questions that only President Nkunriziza can answer himself, that is, if he elects to live up to his Christian beliefs.
Secondly, President Nkunriziza should be sensitive to the call of the International Community and vacate office now by rejecting his party’s nomination. The United States and the United Nations have voiced their displeasure with his intentions. These are telltale’s warnings that must not be discarded in the name of national sovereignty. In the same vein, the African Union earlier undecided, have now emphatically condemned the atrocities thus far. The warning signs are there that something calamitous looms in the offing in the ever-fragile Republic of Burundi.
Conclusively, one can only hope that the “born-again” President will adhere to this advice and desist from sabotaging the peace and democracy which Burundians have enjoyed these few years at the demise of the Civil War.
Edafe Mukoro can be followed on twitter via @RealEdafeMukoro