Burundi Crisis: a classic case of ‘sad’ term syndrome plaguing East and Central Africa’s leaders


I’M RUNNING: President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi


At the end of April the ruling party in Burundi, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) stubbornly nominated current President Pierre Nkurunziza as its flag bearer in the general election slated for June.

The party’s move came after months’ of hinting by the sitting president that he might run for a third term come next election.

The Central African nation’s 2005 Constitution and the 2000 Arusha Peace Agreement say the president shall be elected to two five-year terms in power but Nkurunziza contends since he was elected by Parliament and not the people, for his first term, he is therefore eligible to run for another term.

CNDD-FDD’s decision to put forth Nkurunziza as its candidate in next month election sparked off protests in the capital Bujumbura, protests that have since spread countrywide and have claimed more than 20 people, more than 300 have sustained serious injuries and hundreds of people opposed to the third term are believed to be in jails across the country in horrible conditions, life in Burundi has ground to a halt.

Burundi’s Constitutional Court has given the president the green light to run, and the president himself has officially announced his candidacy to run for the controversial and many say unconstitutional term.

Because the constitution specifically says the president allowed to be elected by universal suffrage to two five-year terms, legally and technically Nkurunziza is not violating the constitution by running as he was elected by parliament for his first term.


NOT BACKING DOWN: Men and women, young and old, Burundian are marching on against the ‘sad’ term

The protests and the violence pitying the protestors on one side and the police and CNDD-FDD militant youths Imbonerakure on the other has forced more than 50, 000 Burundians to flee to regional neighbours; Rwanda alone is hosting more than 24,000 refuges according to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Campaigns for the elections are underway amid protests although the international community has called for the rescheduling of the vote. Belgium and other European Union Countries have announced they are withholding aid to Burundi’s electoral process.

The spotlight might be on Burundi and Nkurunziza but East and Central Africans are used to their leaders being so hell bent on conveniently orchestrating changes to their countries’ constitutions to allow them to run for third terms. And after running for third/sad term, these leaders don’t stop there; they go on to run and run and run.

Lifting term limits from the constitution effectively paves way for these ‘power-hungry misleaders’ to rule their respective countries indefinitely; to rule these poor nations until perhaps age or death comes to the rescue.

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, the region’s bad apple?


HERE TO STAY: Uganda’s influential leader, Yoweri Museveni

The United Nations Secretary General has officially asked President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to intervene in Burundi but does Museveni have the moral high ground to effect the proceedings in Bujumbura? President Museveni has been in power for almost 30 years, and is most likely to run in next year’s presidential poll, and win it.

In 2006, Museveni, one of the longest serving leaders on the continent issued a Uganda Shillings Five Million cheque to each Member of Parliament as a motivational token for them to alter the constitution and get rid of the term limits.

Indeed, they did as he asked, and removed the two five-year presidential term limits, the removal of the term limits meant the president of Uganda can run for president indefinitely.

Once considered a reformer and at one point among the “new breed” of African leaders, Museveni has been a bad influence to his counterparts in the region when it comes respecting their respective countries’ constitutions.

Excluding politically ‘mature’Tanzania and Kenya (at least when it comes this topic), the rest of the countries’ leaders look up to Museveni as a mentor, they do as he does when it comes to employing all kinds of ploys to prolong their stay in office.

Thanks to the ‘Museveni Doctrine, none of regional leaders wants to abide by the constitutional term limits and leave power when their limit expires, instead they look for a way, an excuse to remove the term limits and carry on, and on and on.

Earlier this year, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tried pulling a “Museveni Doctrine” but unlike Ugandan legislators, Congolese lawmakers, and ordinary citizens were wide awake.

When Kabila tabled the electoral reform bill to parliament, Congolese of all walks of life took to the streets, they marched and demonstrated relentlessly, 42 protestors died but their death was not in vain, lawmakers dropped the Kabila’s bill, and the subsequently the government scheduled November 27, 2016 for both presidential and parliamentary elections to take place.

Nobody knows what trick Kabila will pull next but the world is watching him as the election nears. The DRC leader has been in office since 2001 when he took over from his assassinated father, Laurent Desire Kabila. He has two disputed elections, 2006 and 2011.

Judging by how things are going in Burundi, Burundians seemed to have been following Kinshasa protests closely and they are determine

Museveni’s influence has also extended to Rwanda, President Paul Kagame’s second constitutional seven year term is up in 2017, third term drumbeats are sweeping Rwanda; cabinet ministers, lawmakers, local leaders, members of the opposition have publicly voiced their support for a constitutional amendment to lift the two seven-year terms from the constitution thereby making things easy for Kagame to run for the third term.

Over 2 million Rwandans have petitioned parliament to debated lifting term limits from the constitution, and the question is not whether or not parliament will vote on lifting the term limits but when.
“Residents have asked that the article (101) be amended so that the president can lawfully run for the third term. This is their right as citizens and the response to their request will be considered by this chamber.” The Speaker of Rwandan Lower Chamber of Deputies, Donatilla Mukabalisa was quoted as saying last week.

President Kagame, who has not unequivocally ruled out running in 2017, has publicly dissociated himself from the third term movement but political observers say the president is fully in the loop.

Kagame has been in power since 2000, constitutionally since 2003, he has won two elections (2003 and 2011) with a landslide.

Kagame has weighed in on the Burundi conflict, while on a trip in Switzerland last week; he seemed to throw his counterpart in Bujumbura under the bus as he said “the Burundi question is not only about the 3rd term but achievement. I don’t know the reason why if your people say they don’t want you but you insist on staying even if they don’t want you.”

Kagame assertion is not only a disapproval of Nkurunziza’s motives but in away an attack on the East and Central Africa’s leaders’ nemesis; The Constitution.

Regardless of what the constitution stipulates, if you deliver during your tenure, provide “your people” want you then it is very okay to go for the third term, fourth, fifth et cetera.

As East Africa leaders meet in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to discuss the Burundi Crisis lateer today, it is interesting to see whether or not Pierre Nkurunziza will heed their advice, and drop his bid to run again. What will leaders like Museveni, Kagame, Kabila say to Nkurunziza? And how will he respond?

Will our leaders ever get cured of the third/sad term ailment? what kind of precedent are they setting? And do they really care about “their people” or their personal ambitions?

Legally, the Burundian leader might have a point seeking a third term because he was not popularly elected in 2005, but isn’t parliament representative of the Burundian people? And isn’t 10 years in power enough? Why not peacefully hand over power for peace to prevail?