Burundi: Personal versus National Interests

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Despite the much publicized coup attempts against him, while in Tanzania attending a peace conference, Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza managed to return home triumphantly. He was surrounded by the karyenda royal drummers, performing fanatically, leaving no one in doubt where their alliance lay.   President Pierre Nkurunziza proved those who thought his political future had been banished into exile with him wrong. Not even the overconfident generals who planned the failed coup could imagine the courage of the former rebel leader turned president. Yes, it was not a dream; the king had returned.

Hearing the intimidating drums, back by the loyal songs of President Nkurunziza`s zealots, Coup leader Major General Godefroid Niyombare, who declared he had toppled the president Nkurunziza’s government two days earlier, was authoritatively reported to have discarded his military uniform and fled into hiding.

While some thought President Nkurunziza would show some degree of reconciliation and repentance on returning home, he rather issued a serious warning against protesters who are demanding that he drops his controversial third term ambition, which they consider unconstitutional.

In a typical carrot and stick approach, President Pierre Nkurunziza, during his televised address to the nation, thanked his loyal troops who fought against the coup plotters, for standing solidly behind him. He went ahead to unapologetically warn the demonstrators – whom he linked to the enemies of the state who tried to unseat him – of the consequences of their actions. Some alleged that President Nkurunziza vowed to flog the demonstrators in the open market. Others   insisted that he was even determined to castrate them. Warning the demonstrators, whom he previously labelled “terrorists,“ President Nkurunziza went further:

“It is obvious that the current upheavals are related to the group that wanted to overthrow government institutions.”

Interestingly, Nkurunziza conspicuously failed to mention why the “terrorists“ wanted to “overthrow“ the government institutions. Nor did he address the main cause of the demonstrations, which started after he declared his intention to contest in the upcoming presidential election, at the end of his maximum two term tenure, which comes end June. The oppositions consider his third term move a breach of the constitution. President Pierre Nkurunziza thinks otherwise. He argues that he was appointed during his first term, by the parliament; not elected by the electorate as stipulated in the constitution. Recently, the country`s Constitutional Court ruled in his favour. But the ruling seemed to have rather ignited more inflammable reactions amongst many Burundians who accuse the court of being a rubber stamp tool of the president.   Our mole confided in our reporter, that she saw one of President Nkurunziza`s men having a dinner with an official she thought was from the Constitutional Court, while another man was hiding under their table, playing with the balls of the court official. Suddenly, there was a sharp, affirmative shout: “ok, I will,“ the mole alleged. Asked by our reporter, whose intimating hand that was, our mole could not say with certainty. She only insisted the incident took place before the country`s court`s   ruling on the legality of President Nkurunziza`s third term ambition. Both the ambition and verdict have caused acrimonies in Burundi. Similarly, Washington has urgently called on President Pierre Nkurunziza to reconsider his third plans for the sake of the country’s unity and fragile democracy. Recently, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon equally appealed to the Burundi government to engage in an “inclusive dialogue” which would bring   both sides together rather than cause reprisals or revenge.

Although the deadly protests which followed President Nkurunziza`s announcement of his candidacy in the upcoming election have claimed more than 20 lives,   the president`s decision to ignore the calls to disregard his third term ambition leaves many wondering where his interest lies ““ in the country`s stability and progress or his personal political ambition.

To his supporters, Nkurunziza has the legitimate ground to bid for a third term in office, having in mind that he was, arguably appointed by the parliament during his first term. Others think otherwise. Domitien Ndayizeye, Burundi’s interim president, who ruled the country from April 2003 to August 2005 after many years of civil war, which ended following the Arusha peace deal, is one of them. As one of those who took part in drafting of the country`s present constitution,   Mr. Ndayizeye insisted that the constitution undoubtedly limits the president`s tenure of office to two terms.

“The constitution clearly states that no president should govern for more than two terms. We agreed that the president should be voted in, directly by the people every five years – with one chance to be voted into office for a second time. We decided to give a president, two terms in office because if he does a good job, he should not even have the energy for a third mandate.“

Does Ndayizeye“˜s argument above supersede Nkurunziza`s stand which says that the same constitution states that the president must be elected by the electorate (not Parliament)?   Since he was first appointed by the parliament, Nkurunziza`s supporters argue, he has not been elected twice by the electors. That brings one to another question: Does the law stipulate that the president should be in the office more than twice? Could one say that President Pierre Nkurunziza was not the president of Burundi during his first term in the office because he was appointed by the parliament ““ rather than elected by the electorate? If yes, would it be right   and indeed fair enough, to declare all the actions, laws and acts of   / under President Nkurunziza, during his first term in the office unconstitutional and null void on the merit of his Parliamentary appointment? Taking such a regressive step would only lead to immeasurable acrimonious consequences in the country. One believes this ugly scenario is what every right thinking, patriotic Burudian hardly wants for the country.

Since the protest started, following President Pierre Nkurunziza`s third term announcement, more than 100,000 Burundians have fled the country to avoid a repetition of the ugly killings during the dark years of the country`s civil war. Even Domitien Ndayizeye, Burundi’s interim president himself fled to the neighbouring Rwanda before the country`s constitutional court could make its verdict on the legality of President Nkurunziza`s controversial third term project. Others like mayors Gaudose Niyonsaba and Basile Ndereyimana of Gisagara respectively, and Thomas Bukuru (MP) have also fled to Rwanda.

Although President Pierre Nkurunziza is back in Burundi and has again taken control of the country, the situation still remains tensed. Protestors still ignore his calls to stop their demonstrations. With President Pierre Nkurunziza seemingly determined to have his way as far as his third term ambition is concerned, despite calls by many individuals and countries to damper his ambition and the demonstrators so far, in no mood to stop their protests, the tension is far from over. So are the killings and the Burundi`s political uncertainties.

During his speech after returning to Burundi, President Nkurunziza announced that “there is peace in the whole country,” and that both the country`s borders and airport are opened. As if that was not convincing enough, he recently instigated fears of terrorist attacks from Shabaab, the Somalia based terrorist group. The allegation came as a big surprise to so many. Even the leaders of the militant organization were left flabbergasted. Kata Kata authoritatively gathered that the supreme leader of al-Shabaab, had to send one of their suicide bombers to buy a map from the bookshop to enable him remember where Burundi was located, after hearing President Nkurunziza`s warning of alleged terrorist attacks. His “attack diary“ carefully scrutinized without seeing any sign of Burundi assignment, the al-Shabaab boss,   Kata Kata was told, vowed to send one of his ambassadors to Bujumbura to clarify from President Nkurunziza whether the attack he said was imminent was attributed to them or Shabaab ““al.   It was not clear to us before going to the press whether this ambassador, who insisted on a presidential reception, eventually went to meet President Nkurunziza.

Wallahi, that man should not run our business or politics for us. Haba!! Brothers, it is not that we forgot Burundi. Wallahi!! How can we forget the infidels that kill our brothers in Somalia. No, we started with Kenya and“¦“ The supreme leader of al-Shabaab, stammered, trying to convince his angry field commanders, who were just recently reminded by President Nkurunziza`s terrorist threat allegation, that Bujumbura was once on their attack list.

There is no doubt that President Pierre Nkurunziza has brought stability in Burundi since he came to power. The once explosive antagonism between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes had long been relatively buried in the spirit of patriotism. Security had been brought after years of anarchy. Although some have accused President Nkurunziza   of   political intolerance, others argue that his action were borne out of patriotism. The same love for Burundi, others insist, forced the stubborn demonstrators to sacrifice their lives confronting the security agencies who want to stop their protest against President Nkurunziza`s third time ambition. Whether President Nkurunziza or the rioters are right, is less important than the stability of the country both camps claim to love. The economy of Burundi is systematically heading to the abyss, both foreigners and Burundians are fleeing the country fearfully, the security is deteriorating. If care is not taken, some unscrupulous elements could capitalize on the chaos and play an ethnic card, thereby resurrecting the long buried ethnic consciousness in the country, which has claimed millions of lives.

If democracy is the government of the people for the people, by the people, one could say that President Nkurunziza has every right, as a Burundian citizen to exercise his democratic rights within the law of the country. However, what happens when the same people you want to rule reject you? A leader can only rule effectively if the people want him/her to rule them. Otherwise, there would be pandemonium, which jeopardizes Burundi`s fragile democracy. Perhaps   for the sake of patriotism, President Pierre Nkurunziza may have to consider the advice of   Domitien Ndayizeye, Burundi’s interim president:

” If he really wants to continue, he can assist the new government as an advisor“

Must one be part of the government or a ruler to show patriotism? Not really! Perhaps only in Africa, do people think otherwise. Could there be some degree of truth in Ndayizeye`s advice? The actions of President Pierre Nkurunziza in the coming   months will definitely show where his interests lie ““ in the peace and progress of Burundi or his personal aggrandizement.



The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real