When will the killings end? Evidence of the Burundian crisis

For some decades now, many African leaders, who call themselves democratic presidents, have been thwarting the face of their constitution and violating constitutional rights for their selfish reasons. It is now clear that many African leaders have resolved to eternalise themselves in power in the likes of Paul Biya (Cameroon), Theodore Obiang Nguema (Equatorial Guinea), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) and recently Pierre Nkurunziza(Burundi). The incumbent President Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in the 2015 presidential election under the auspices of the ruling political party, the National council for the Defence of Democracy- Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). Like in Burkina Faso, the announcement sparked protests by those opposed to Nkurunziza seeking a third term in office. This situation saw widespread demonstration in the capital, Bujumbura.

This tyrannical, undemocratic and disrespect of the constitution has seen the loss of many souls and an increase in the number of refugees per country. It has been widely registered that since the beginning of this crisis in Burundi, more than 600 protesters have been arrested, at least 20,000 people were made refugees and over 439 people were killed. Recently on Monday morning, Brigadier General Athanase Kararuza, senior adviser of security of the office of the Burundian first vice-president was shot dead with his wife by unidentified gunmen who mounted an ambush at Gihosha on their way to their duty station reported by Army spokesman Colonel Gasparilla Baratuza.
As a result of the persisting protests, the government, under its ruler, ordered the shutdown of the country’s internet and telephone network and also went ahead to close down all the country’s universities and called protesters “terrorists”. Though it is also clear that freedom of speech and human rights are not fully respected in Burundi, the international community and the African Union have remained helpless in the face of this tragedy. Hence this has made many schools of thoughts to nickname the African Union as a “Toothless Bull Dog”.

The rejection of many Burundians and the opposition party to the President’s third term in office can be traced back during the Burundian Civil War which lasted from 1993 to 2005 with an estimated 30,000 killed. It should be noted that this conflict ended with a peace process that brought in the 2005 constitution provision guaranteeing representation for both Hutu and Tutsi, and parliamentary election that led to Pierre Nkurunziza, from the Hutu FDD, becoming president. But since then, the World Bank says about 60% of Burundians do not have enough food and that the government does not have enough money to fund needed programs due to mismanagement, corruption and looting of government funds. On 4 May 2015, the present situation in Burundi saw the vice-president of the constitutional court fleeing the country following alleged death threats from senior governement figures. The judge claimed that most of the seven judges on the country’s highest court believed it would be unconstitutional for Nkurunziza to be elected again and critics also said that the President’s actions jeopardise all peace deals that have kept ethnic tensions in check since the Burundian civil war. Even the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry stated that Nkurunziza’s nomination “flies directly in the face of the constitution.

Soon after the election on 21 July 2015 and the swearing in of Nkurunziza on 20 August 2015, Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition leader called for the formation of a national unity government and that the President’s third term would need to be greatly truncated to no more than a year and new elections would be held but this suggestion was later rejected by the government. However the big question of the day will be to know the day when most African leaders will stop violating constitutional rights and stop the suffering and killing they are inflicting on their population.

Adewale Daniel Omojowo
Together we can make it happen. Say No to violence