On May 13 2015, some members of the Burundian army, led by the former Chief of Staff General Godefroid Niyombaré, attempted to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza amid unrest over his bid to be re-elected to a third term. After declaring that the government has been dissolved, crowds opposed to President Nkurunziza’s third term took to the street in the capital Bujumbura to celebrate the event.
However, on May 14th army loyalists restored order and President Nkurunziza returned from Tanzania where he was for an emergency meeting on the political crisis in his country. Since later April, clashes with the police had been reported by international and national media. Over a dozen protesters have been killed, many have been arrested and it is estimated that close to 50.000 Burundians have fled to neighboring nations.
The attempted coup was not a surprise for Burundians interviewed in Bujumbura and Washington DC by Africa Faith & Justice Network. The Catholic Task Force on Africa (CTFA), a coalition of catholic organizations to which Africa Faith & Justice Network is an active member is encouraged by US and European engagement around the Burundian crisis. In April, CTFA called for diplomatic engagement in advocacy letters addressed respectively to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Burundi’s partners such as Belgium, the European Union, and the United States have respectively pledged $4 million, $8.8 million, and $7.5 million to help with the elections and all three countries have recently called for a delay until conditions for free and fair elections were met. Consequently, the EU decided to withhold the remaining $2.2 million of the total pledged, Belgium $2 million of its elections pledge and $5 million jointly pledged with the Netherlands for the Burundian police.
On May 9th President Nkurunziza submitted his candidacy to the electoral commission despite weeks of popular protest against his seeking another term; it is believed to contradict Article 96 of the constitution which states: ““The President of the Republic is elected by popular vote for a term of five years renewable once.” The constitutional court endorsed his candidacy under pressure and threat of death according to its vice president Mr. Sylvere Nimpagaritse who spoke up after he managed to escape to Rwanda because he did not want to make that endorsement.
With the exception of Russia which opposed a French drafted UN resolution on the Crisis in Burundi, the international pressure on President Nkurinziza was mounting daily, but he seemed very defiant. May 9th, the day he submitted his candidacy, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame told China Central TV’s special contributor, James Chau: “If your own citizens are telling you we don’t want you to do this or to lead us, it is because they are saying you are not delivering much to us. So how do you say I am staying anyway whether you want me or not? This is a serious problem.”
On May 8th, following a United Nations Security Council Consultation on Burundi, Samantha Power, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations told the press “President Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term, which the United States has clearly stated is a violation of the Arusha Agreement.” On May 6th, South African President Jacob Zuma said he was sending an envoy to Burundi and added that “We believe the leadership there should be mature. It should be the country that is put first.” South Africa had played a role in the Arusha accords which ended years of civil war and also had peacekeepers in Burundi.
Photo copy rights http:www.iwacu-burundi.org