Tag Archives: Burundi

Burundi’s President Misses Key Regional Talks, Opting to Campaign at Home

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Burundi’s president on Monday chose to skip key regional talks, opting to stay at home instead in order to campaign for a controversial third term in power as a rebel general threatened to step up attacks.

Leaders of the five-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc met in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam on Monday to discuss the ongoing political situation in Burundi. A statement released shortly after the summit indicated that East African leaders have called on the Burundian government to delay the 15 July presidential election by two weeks, effectively moving it to 30 July. During the meeting, leaders also named Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as mediator of a dialogue between the Burundian government and the opposition. The decision comes in the wake of the ruling party stating that UN mediator Abdoulaye Bathily must immediately stop his work as he began without first being received by the government. Nyabenda has indicated that the ruling CNDD-FDD party is ready to work with the Ugandan President Museveni’s mediation efforts. The EAC also called on Burundi to disarm armed groups, including the Imbonerakure, or youth wing of Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDD-FDD party, and for rival factions to form a government of national unity “irrespective of whoever wins the presidential election.”

On Tuesday, Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party indicated that it will conditionally accept the call by the EAC to delay the 15 July presidential election by two weeks, effectively moving it to 30 July. Party chairman Pascal Nyabenda has disclosed that any decision to delay the vote must ensure that the constitution, which mandates that presidential elections cannot go beyond 26 July, is not violated, with the constitution also stating that the president-elect must be sworn in by 26 August. President Nkurunziza opted to miss Monday’s summit and instead sent his foreign minister. Nkurunziza stayed in Burundi to lead his presidential campaign in the central regions of Gitega and Mwaro.

Official results released Tuesday indicate that the ruling party of President Nkurunziza has swept to an expected overwhelming victory in controversial parliament elections that were boycotted by the opposition. The election commission announced that the CNDD-FDD party won 77 out of 100 selected seats in parliament, with two more seats going to its ally UPRONA. The election commission also announced that despite the opposition boycotting the polls, and calling on its supporters not to vote, the coalition Independents of Hope group of Agathon Rwasa and Charles Nditije won 11 seats. The commission has indicated that overall, voter turnout was 74 percent. The opposition has rejected the results, with Rwasa stating shortly after the announcement, “we reject these results because the parliament and legislative elections were not credible.” Both the African Union (AU) and European Union have condemned the polls. Former colonial power Belgium has also stated that it will not recognize the results.

Meanwhile rebel general Leonard Nendakumana, who took part in a failed coup in May, has vowed to carry out further attacks until the government is overthrown. In an interview that was broadcast late Sunday, Nendakumana told Kenya’s KTN news agency, “after we saw that we could not succeed our coup on May 15, we found it was necessary to keep fighting so that we can push Nkurunziza to keep thinking about what he is doing and maybe just resign,” adding, “all those actions that are going on in the country, we are behind them and we are going to intensify them until Pierre Nkurunziza understands that we are there to make him understand by force that he has to give up his third term.” Nendakumana further stated, “there was a need to organize that coup to make a change in the country because the situation was very bad… Mr Nkurunziza and his team were leading the country in a situation of civil war, and we could not accept that our population, our country, were led into a civil war,” adding “they are trying to move towards an open civil war just to find a way to protect themselves.”

General Nendakumana, a top intelligence officer, is an ally of coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare, who has been on the run since their attempt to seize power failed. In more than two months of protests, over seventy people have been killed, with almost 1440,000 refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

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Burundi Confirms New Dates for Controversial Parliamentary and Presidential Elections

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On Wednesday, the presidency announced that Burundi will go ahead with parliamentary elections on 29 June and a presidential poll on 15 July.

While the elections have been delayed in line with calls from regional powers so that talks can take place between the government and opposition parties, Wednesday’s confirmation comes just a day after the president’s spokesman repeated that the divisive candidacy was “non-negotiable,” adding that there will be no further delays to the election calendar. The opposition has already rejected proposals for a new timetable, with officials indicating that conditions for holding fair polls were not met as independent media has been shut down and many opponents have fled the country.

Since late April, the East African nation has been in a political crisis over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term. The opposition has branded the move as unconstitutional, stating that it is a violation of a 2006 peace agreement, which ended 13 years of civil war. The move has also sparked weeks of violent demonstrations. Around forty people have died in a police crackdown on protests in the capital city, Bujumbura, and nearly 100,000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Last month, the president survived a coup attempt and has since been faced with growing international pressure, that has included aid cuts aimed at forcing him to reconsider. Despite this, the president has remained determined to proceed with his bid for a third term in office, going so far as to request Burundians to donate money to pay for the upcoming elections.

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Regional Summit Opens as Crisis in Burundi Continues

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After a regional summit on the on going political crisis in Burundi was held in neighbouring Tanzania on Sunday, East African leaders declared that the upcoming elections in Burundi should be delayed by at least a month and a half and that the on going violence must end. The leaders, however, stopped short of calling for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon his controversial bid for a third consecutive term in office, which has effectively sparked weeks of civil unrest, a coup attempt and a major refugee crisis that is now affecting the region.

In a statement read out the East African Community’s (EAC) secretary general Richard Sezibera, which was released shortly after a meeting of regional leaders was held in neighbouring Tanzania, the East African leaders stated “the summit, concerned at the impasse in Burundi, strongly calls for a long postponement of the elections not less than a month and a half.” The statement further called “on all parties to stop violence,” for the “disarmament of all armed youth groups,” which is a clear reference to the ruling party’s supporters who have been accused of attacking the party’s opponents, and for “the creation of conditions for the return of refugees” who have fled the crisis. The EAC summit was attended by leaders from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is a key regional player and Burundi’s neighbour, sent a minister to represent him. South African President Jacob Zuma was also present at the talks.  The summit had been seen as a critical opportunity to resolve the crisis, with talks between the president’s camp and the main opposition currently at a deadlock.

President Nkurunziza was not present during Sunday’s summit, with his spokesman indicating that the president would instead be pushing ahead with his re-election campaign. However it is widely believed that the president’s absence is linked to the 13 May failed coup attempt, which occurred when President Nkurunziza attended the first crisis meeting in Tanzania’s economic capital. In an attempt to benefit from the president being out of the country, a top general launched an unsuccessful bid to oust him.

The political crisis in Burundi erupted after the ruling party designated President Nkurunziza, who has been in power for ten years, as its candidate for the upcoming elections. The opposition and rights groups however have indicated that this move effectively violates the constitution as well as a 2006 peace agreement, which ended the country’s 13-year civil war. That war killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and there are now growing fears that the current political crisis may push the country back into conflict. Despite the civil unrest leaving at least 30 people dead, the Burundian government has maintained that parliamentary elections will take place on 5 June, with presidential elections scheduled for 26 June.

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Burundi Coup Fails as Leader Returns

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An attempt earlier this week to overthrow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza ended in failure on Friday as coup leaders admitted defeat and were either arrested or forced to go on the run.

Earlier this week, General Godefroid Niyombare launched a coup in the Central African nation as the country’s president was in neighbouring Tanzania to participate in regional talks on the on-going crisis in Burundi. On Friday a spokesman for the president confirmed that Burundian forces have arrested General Nyiombare. Earlier in the day, a senior police official had indicated “General Niyombare has evaded us but we know where he is hiding,” adding that he is believed to have fled to a southern district of the capital. Two senior army officers and a police general, who have been accused of taking part in the attempted coup, have been arrested.

The dramatic end to the coup attempt effectively ended 48 hours of uncertainty as questions arose who was in charge of the country, which in recent weeks has been gripped by a political crisis over President Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term in office. Wednesday’s coup announcement resulted in international criticism. In emergency talks on the crisis on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the coup attempt and called for a swift return to the rule of law. The United States State Department indicated that Nkurunziza remained the legitimate president.

On Friday, the presidency announced that President Nkurunziza was back in the capital Bujumbura and that he will soon address the nation. According to an aide to the president, “he is in Bujumbura in a very secure place,” adding that he will address the nation today. The streets of Bujumbura were mostly calm, following fighting that erupted on Thursday between loyalist troops and forces supporting the General. On the ground sources have reported that police set up checkpoints along a highway in the southern region of the country. Protesters have indicated that they will return to the streets, a move that will likely lead to more clashes.


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Burundian General Declares Coup Against President Nkurunziza

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In a surprise move, a top Burundian general on Wednesday announced the overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The announcement follows weeks of violent protests against the President’s bid to stand for a third term in office.

During a radio broadcast, General Godefroid Niyombare, who in February was dismissed from his position as the Central African nation’s powerful chief of intelligence, stated “regarding President Nkurunziza’s arrogance and defiance of the international community which advised him to respect the constitution and Arusha peace agreement, the committee for the establishment of the national concord decide: President Nkurunziza is dismissed, his government is dismissed too.” General Niyombare further disclosed that he was working with civil society groups, religious leaders and politicians in order to form a transitional government.

The announcement came just hours after President Nkurunziza arrived in neighbouring Tanzania for talks aimed at ending the crisis. The presidential office quickly dismissed the declaration, stating that it is “a joke.” While it remains unclear whether General Niyombare has the support of the military, on the ground sources reported that police have vanished from the streets of the capital city as thousands of people celebrated the coup attempt against the president.

According to an unofficial count by activists, more than twenty people have been killed since violent street protests erupted more than two weeks ago. Demonstrators, and the country’s opposition, maintain that President Nkurunziza’s bid for another five-year term in office violates a two-term limit in the constitution and the Arusha peace agreement, which ended an ethnically fuelled civil war in 2005 that killed 300,000 people.

Several Western donors, including the United States, have criticized the president’s decision to stand again. Growing international concern over the situation in Burundi resulted in East African leaders and a top official from South Africa to meet in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam in order to discuss the on-going crisis, which has already spilled over into a region that has a history of ethnic conflict. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring states because of the violence in Burundi, with UN officials stating that the crisis is heading towards a “worst case scenario” that could see 300,000 people fleeing, with some relocating to other parts of Burundi, while others opting to flee abroad.

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