Burundi: Government approves constitution change that could extend Nkurunziza rule

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The Burundian government has approved changes to the country’s constitution that could allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his reign over the troubled nation for another 14 years.

Senior officials confirmed on Thursday that ministers gave their support in favour of changing the constitution during an extraordinary session held on Tuesday. The proposed changes would remove a two-term limit for presidents, allowing Nkurunziza to run in the country’s next election.

Government backs constitution changes

The proposed changes to Burundi’s constitution would remove its references to the country’s 2000 peace agreement, which was signed in Arusha, Tanzania. The Arusha accord was signed a 13-year civil war that killed more than 300,000 people.

The Arusha accord states that no president can rule for more than 10 years, limiting rulers to a maximum of two, five-year terms in charge. Removing these references form Burundi’s constitution would allow Pierre Nkurunziza to run again in 2020 and 2025.

Opposition slams proposal

Burundi’s leading opposition forum has slammed President Nkurunziza and ministers supporting the proposed constitutional changes. It says the president has crossed a “red line” should be ousted from office.

Burundi fell into political crisis in April 2015 over Nkurunziza’s plans to run for a third term in office that year. At the time, his camp argued that his first five-year term shouldn’t count as he was elected by a parliamentary vote, rather than a public election.

This didn’t stop the brutal political backlash.

For the 2020 election, Nkurunziza has no more space to debate the constitution. However, changing it could pave the way for a fourth election campaign. The question is what kind of opposition response would his candidacy provoke this time.

Featured image: By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org)/Eric Miller, mailto:emiller@iafrica.com emiller@iafrica.com) – Pierre Nkurunziza – World Economic Forum on Africa 2008, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685472

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.