Of Pierre Nkurunziza and Africa’s ‘sad termism’

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi’s ‘deposed’ President Pierre Nkurunziza


There are few times when one can’t resist the temptation to comment about Africa and its leaders because most of them have got this dubious distinction of thinking their respective countrymen owe them a living. They play on our minds and prey on our taxes!

Such impunity has often brought about conflict, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

Burundi’s President (former) Pierre Nkurunziza had been at the helm of government for ten years. But the man, a former college lecturer, learnt nothing and dubiously forgot almost everything about serving the people when they still need you.

He also forgot the dangers of hanging around the corridors of power beyond that time which is expected and in the process his attempts to push for a ‘sad third term’ have been nipped in the bud; he has been shown the exit. He should have known better and acted otherwise.

For starters, hardly a year ago, Blaise Campoare, his former colleague in Burkina Faso was unceremoniously sent packing by his countrymen. This was after he sought to amend the Constitution to allow him another five-year term in office.

Similarly, in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), people staged ferocious demonstrations against President Joseph Kabila’s intended move to have the Constitution amended to allow him another five years at the helm of government. The DRC is set to hold elections later this year and for now it seems the man has shelved the idea.

With these two examples just near home, Nkurunziza should have known that for a leader to be able to address the risk of threats to his existing government, he or she needs to largely identify with the aspirations of the people he lords it over and, should he/she ascertain that the government has lost its popularity, quit.

coup photo4

Burundians jubilating on the streets of Bujumbura upon hearing Nkurunziza is ‘dismissed’


It can be argued that in Burundi, just like in several other African countries, the important matter of civil liberties is often ignored. Indeed, the leadership in Burundi encouraged the emergence of a police state which curtailed freedom of speech and association by enacting draconian laws just aimed at securing the top seat for a particular person, Pierre Nkurunziza.

But the man was detached: rampant unemployment, rising and unregulated commodity prices, police brutality, high-level corruption all became part of his leadership legacy, prompting the masses into civil action.

The anger and resultant violence we now see playing out is the result of cumulative neglect of Burundians by the CNDD-FDD party leadership under Pierre Nkurunziza and his cohorts.

It is difficult not to imagine that this man Nkurunziza (this name literary translates into ‘good news’) looked to the East and tried to copy what happened/ is happening in Uganda under Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda under Paul Kagame; he actually thought that amending the Constitution of Burundi was like taking a walk through Hyde Park.

Though at one time a guerrilla leader, little did Nkurunziza remember that his ascendency to the presidency was arrived at after a negotiated settlement between antagonistic and warring parties, while the two gentlemen he seems to want to copy shot themselves to power.

In fact Museveni and Kagame circumvented negotiated settlement (the 1985 Nairobi Peace Talks/Jokes and 1993 Arusha Peace Talks) and as such, once they acquired power, the two set out to legitimize themselves as ‘liberators and benefactors’ of their respective countries and the people.

Again, this state of affairs was lost on Pierre Nkurunziza and he has lost power but his colleagues are not about to leave.

It is imperative to note that the negotiated settlement of power squabbles is intended to create a win-win situation for the belligerent parties; in effect forging a way forward. But unfortunately the resultant effect emanating from such a scheme is the emergence of two power centres in government, never mind that one of them usually wields slightly more power than the other.

Indeed, most people who are conversant with African politics know that negotiated political settlements on the continent are just ritualistic and useless; in fact they complicate governance and disrupt service delivery as was witnessed in the coalition government of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and his nemesis Morgan Tsivangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) between 2009 and 2013.

These two men literally tore the country down its middle, with the President ridiculing his Prime Minister at any moment he felt opportune.

The result was political bickering and witch-hunting and a bruised economy all of which reinforced the argument for a collapsing and unsustainable state: a basket case. Just like Burundi.