Violence is brewing not so quietly in Bujumbura, Burundi where protesters are demanding the immediate resignation of current President Pierre Nkurunziza. He recently announced that he will stand for election for a third term despite constitutional term limits, which triggered the conflict. Since his announcement over 30,000 Burundians have fled the country; majority of them to Rwanda.
This does not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the political arena in Burundi for a while now. Since June 2014, President Nkurunziza has been hinting at a third term and he has also tried to introduce changes to the constitution which would have threatened the balance of power between the country’s main ethnic groups; a move that parliament flouted. What does come as a surprise is the nonchalant attitude that the President seems to have about the situation. People are dying -over 20 so far- people are fleeing and the whole country has come to a standstill – for an already suffering economy this surely is not helping Burundi. Additionally the President has also been under a lot of pressure from the international community not to run for a third term. This differs from the African Union which really can’t say anything about the matter because of Presidents like Museveni and Mugabe who have been in power longer than most of us have been alive.
The argument that Nkurunziza supporters are peddling is that because during his first term he was elected by Parliament and not a popular vote thus qualifying him to stand for a third term. This is nonsense at best, and he should not be allowed to sit for a third term based on a technicality.
All hope is not lost however and we as Africans should not stand by and let this be swept under the rug. The Vice President of the Constitutional Court Sylvere Nimpagaritse who is currently in exile in neighbouring Rwanda has stood his ground and refused to be intimidated. He has blatantly exposed the Nkurunziza administrations intimidation tactics and will not give in to their directives; this is what has resulted in his exile. All the protesters and opposition leaders on the streets should keep his actions in mind and not abandon their cause. The government is elected to work for the people, not the other way around. Most importantly the whole of Burundi should not perish because of the selfish demands of one person, at the end of the day that is all he is – a person like you and me.