Is Nkurunziza ready to relinquish power?

Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party on Sunday chose an army general, Evariste Ndayishimiye, as its candidate for the presidential election scheduled to take place in May. 

“The CNDD-FDD party will always be our parent, we will always remember that even if we grow up, we will never be superior to our parents,” Ndayishimiye said, in an apparent pledge to be loyal to the outgoing president, Pierre Nkurunziza. “We’ll always respect leaders of our party because a child can never compare himself to his parents.”

Sunday’s announcement signalled the coming to an end of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s three terms in office. His controversial third term triggered political violence that led to the killing of at least 1,200 people and forced around 400 000 others to flee their homes to neighbouring countries

Nkurunziza’s 15 years in office has been marred by allegations of human rights abuses and muzzling of the press as well as the stifling of critics and opposition.

But during the CNDD-FDD’s three-day conference in Gitega, a rural province in Burundi, Nkurunziza proudly told party members that he is leaving behind a country on the democratic path. “We [the CNDD-FDD government] have achieved a lot, God is our witness.”


As part of his presidential retirement package, 55-year-old Nkurunziza will receive $530 000 and a luxury villa. He will also receive a salary for the rest of his life.

Who is Evariste Ndayishimiye?

As the ruling party’s secretary-general and close ally of President Nkurunziza, General Evariste Ndayishimiye is one of Burundi’s most influential politicians. He previously served as minister of interior and security, and was once chief of the president’s military and civilian cabinet.

The 52-year-old joined Nkurunziza’s rebel movement in the 1990s against the ruling Tutsi government. Ndayishimiye was a key signatory of the 2003 Arusha accord, which ended the war and ushered in Nkurunziza as new president of Burundi. By that time, 300,000 people had lost their lives in the conflict.

Ndayishimiye has not always agreed with Nkurunziza. “He initially opposed the president’s third term bid but later changed his mind,” said David Gakunzi, a Burundian political analyst and author. That makes Ndayishimiye unpredictable, Gakunzi said.

Burundians on the streets of the capital Bujumbura had mixed feelings about the man who is likely to take over from Nkurunziza. “We are afraid that we’re going to be ruled in a dictatorship,” one woman, who declined to give her identity for fear of reprisal, told DW.

“As a citizen, I’m not happy. I don’t support Evariste [Ndayishimiye] as future president of Burundi because he acts a soldier, he acts like someone who is using dictatorship in his way of ruling.”

“I think it’s now high time that Burundi starts a new chapter as it is the first time that a president in Burundi peacefully hands over power to another,” a male resident told DW.

“I hope that Burundi will rebuild from that and become a better Burundi. I hope it can develop and strategize itself to attract investors so that they can invest in the country and create more job opportunities for the citizens so that they can fight against poverty in the country.”

Nkurunziza soon out but will he truly leave?

Having ruled Burundi with an iron fist for 15 years, many observers say Nkurunziza’s influence will still linger for a while after the May 20 election. “Nkurunziza is just stepping back, not going away,” Charles Nditije, a former minister who is now member of the UPRONA opposition party said.

“He will still be working in the background, trying to protect his family and fortunes.” Nditije has dismissed the upcoming polls saying: “There will never be free and fair or credible election.” He has called on all Burundian opposition parties to boycott the 2020 election as some did during the 2015 and 2010 elections. “The coming election is meant to give legitimacy to the new president,” Nditije said.

Under a draft legislation which was passed last week in parliament, Nkurunziza could receive the title: “Paramount leader” — the CNDD-FDD party already bestowed to him the title “the eternal supreme guide” — a reference which was mocked by critics.

In 2018, Burundians voted in a referendum that could have extended Nkurunziza reign until 2034. He however surprised many when he announced he would not contest in the 2020 election.

Burundi remains one of the world’s poorest countries. It relies mostly on coffee exports and is heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet government expenditure. Some of that assistance was slashed following the political violence. The country of 11 million people consists of 14% Tutsis whereas the rest are mostly Hutus. Ethnic tensions have plagued Burundi ever since it attained independence in 1962.

Apollinaire Niyirora in Bujumbura contributed to this article, which also uses material from news agencies AP, AFP and dpa.Deutsche Welle

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Fearless Burundi MP suffers in jail

Fabien Banciryanino, who challenged state on political murders, detained in notorious prison

Why do presidents cling to power?

Four former heads of state speak about what being president is actually like

Burundi’s new security minister has a long and bloody past

Gervais Ndirakobuca is under international sanctions for human rights violations — abductions, disappearances, murder, turture — when people protested against the president seeking a third term

Danger: Burundi’s new president

Évariste Ndayishimiye’s first speech as president, and the conspicuous absence of Burundi’s main opposition leader, do not bode well for democracy

Remembering the cruelty of strongman Nkurunziza and his regime

Burundi’s president was a cruel and tyrannical leader under whom no one was safe, not even schoolchildren
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Air pollution link in 15% of global Covid-19 deaths

Researchers have found that, because ambient fine particulate air pollution aggravates comorbidities, it could play a factor in coronavirus fatalities

Mboweni plans to freeze public sector wage increases for the...

The mid-term budget policy statement delivered by the finance minister proposes cutting all non-interest spending by R300-billion.

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech

BMW X3 thrives in the M stable

The compact SUV is so at home with its new badge that’s it’s surprising it didn’t happen sooner
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday