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EAC presidents in tacit approval of Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for third term

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By FRED OLUOCH, TEA Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, November 22   2014 at  16:06

In Summary

  • NDD-FDD ruling party supporters and EAC diplomats said President Nkurunzinza was eligible to run for what would be his second term because he had been elected in 2005 by the National Assembly but not directly by the people.
  • The question over President Nkurunziza’s candidature has gripped Burundi with the opposition seeking to counter what appears to be a violation of the 2000 Arusha Accord.
  • Sources said the political uncertainty in Burundi had seen members of the public position themselves to defend against potential attacks from rival groups.

Presidents of the East African Community member countries have given tacit approval for Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a controversial third term in office next year riding on a precedent set in Kenya.

NDD-FDD ruling party supporters and EAC diplomats said President Nkurunzinza was eligible to run for what would be his second term because he had been elected in 2005 by the National Assembly but not directly by the people.

“If President Nkurunzinza is running for a third mandate he is not violating the letter of the Constitution, as per the Arusha Peace Agreement of 2000, which was and is the main source on which the Constitution was based,” said Kenyan ambassador to Burundi Ken Vitisia in an interview.

The sentiments were also echoed by the Ugandan and Tanzanian ambassadors to Burundi, Matayo Kyaligonza and James Nzagi respectively, who said there was no crisis in Burundi ahead of the elections, as portrayed by the media.

According to Constitution

“If there was a political crisis ahead of the elections, then the EAC presidents could have stepped in but they know very well that President Nkurunziza is acting under the country’s Constitution,” noted Mr Vitisia.

Prosper Bazombanza, Burundi’s first vice president, this week called on the EAC Secretariat to send in election observers before, during and after the 2015 presidential elections, because “Burundi is already in electioneering mode.”

Former Kenya President Daniel arap Moi was allowed to run for two more terms after the constitution was amended in 1991 because the term limit could not be applied retroactively.

Despite eyebrows being raised in the political arena, the courts ruled that Mr Moi was eligible as per the provisions of the amended new constitution. The Arusha Accord signed in 2000 stipulates that apart from the power-sharing arrangements, the president cannot rule for more than two terms.

The question over President Nkurunziza’s candidature has gripped Burundi with the opposition seeking to counter what appears to be a violation of the 2000 Arusha Accord.

During a regional meeting of electoral agencies held in Bujumbura last week, it was resolved that poll bodies be enshrined in national constitutions as is the case in Kenya instead of through Acts of parliament that can be easily manipulated.

Sources said the political uncertainty in Burundi had seen members of the public position themselves to defend against potential attacks from rival groups.

As a result, the number of road blocks and thorough checking of cars in Bujumbura — especially at night — have increased, with the police trying to pick out potential trouble makers. 

On the outskirts of Bujumbura, anonymous armed gangs of “Barukoti” which means jacket-wearing toughs, have been attacking residential areas in raids that have claimed a couple of lives.

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