On Sunday 26th April this year, majority of the Burundians took to the streets to protest about the decision by the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunzinza to run for a third term. This decision absolutely contravenes the Burundian constitutional provisions with regard to the presidential term limits. The Burundi constitution stipulates that the president should serve a maximum of two terms of five years each.
Pierre Nkurunzinza’s action has certainly jeopardized the post-war progress made by the nation which is arguably among the poorest states in the world. Nkurunzinza assumed the presidency in 2005 after the end of a decade long civil war that took place between 1993 and 2005 replacing the then president, Domitien Ndayizeye. Pierre Nkurunzinza is a member and the current chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy, CNDD-FDD.
With disregard to the constitutionally provided mandate, he joins the list of well-known African ‘leaders’ who have gone against the law as far as the presidency and/or the premiership is concerned. As a new member of this power-hungry league, his comradeship will breed political intimacy with Uncle Bob(Robert Mugabe) of the economically devastated and poverty-stricken Zimbabwe, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the strongman of the Pearl of Africa, Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir, and the former president of Burkina Faso turned fugitive Blaise Compaore among others.
As he rose to the top-most office in Burundi, he championed a national policy whose sole purpose was to enhance political stability, promote economic recovery and facilitate national reconstruction and reconciliation. Sunday’s protests in Bujumbura reveal the parody of this policy of nationhood whose main architect was Mr. Nkurunzinza. This happenstance will definitely make history to serve a cold dish to the Burundians if more violence occurs. Fear for another dark period in the history of this fledgling African country is imminent provided that the majority intensify their opposition to the incumbent’s run for a third term in case he does not relent gunning for another term in office.
No one would wish Burundi to plunge into another period of civil warfare as she has already experienced similar phenomenon in 1972 during which more than 400,000 civilians lost their lives and the other in 1993-2005 which claimed the souls of over 300,000 people. Suffice is to say that majority of his country men are against his nomination for another term including most his CNDD-FDD party members. This is also a critical moment whereby the East African Community members under the chairmanship of President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania need to intervene to avoid a potential image dent of this particular region.
Apart from the EAC intervention, the African Union should also come out strongly to not only condemn but to also oppose Nkurunzinza’s move. But a point to ponder is to whether the AU can boldly execute such an unprecedented move. I doubt if the AU can intervene because it is a body that is largely comprised of jingoistic personalities and in addition, it is a union that has lost direction if its performance is to go by. Argumentatively, the AU should cease the culture of making in-roads only when events have turned bloody but instead it should strive to make interventions when the rosiness of political situations is fading. For instance, the sending of troops to troubled African states has often-times come in handy to salvage crises occasioned by war but such reactive measures can be avoided if pro-activeness is embraced by the union.
A lot is being anticipated to see whether Nkurunzinza will rescind his decision or not. My plea is that he should go for the former and history will remember him positively. He should let democracy to prevail in Burundi so that on 26th of June this year, Burundians can be able to elect a new president. And do not forget this: Mr. Nkurunzinza is a born-again Christian so may be he believes that God has spoken to him to rule for eternity. But all said and done, Burundi is courting a politically wicked path en route to its former status of a pariah state and a banana republic.