Burundi, Paradox of Pierre N’s Second, Maybe Third Term

 

 

By Donna Welles.

 

More people have died of cholera than of violence in the events surrounding President Pierre N’s decision to seek a third, or perhaps second, term in Burundi’s upcoming presidential election. Western media outlets were alerted last month when Burundi students, out of fear for their lives, asked for permission to enter the United States Embassy.
Since then, roughly 100,000 have fled, although less than 20 have died as a result of violence.

In a new development, media outlets reported yesterday that 31 people have died of cholera while in Tanzania refugee camps, although thousands are said to have been infected. Cholera is spread by infected water; Victims are dehydrated and suffer gastrointestinal symptoms.

Fear of the savage violence during the Civil War of the 1990s has scared people out of their homes, but so far the casualty figures do not resemble what happened during Hutus-Tutsis massacres of old. Another notable distinction between then and now are the weapons of choice, in the 1990s many were brutalized with machetes. Today, photos of protestors and government actors reveal grenades and projectile weapons.

The impasse revolves around the texts of two documents, the Burundi Constitution as well as the Arusha Accords which served as the Peace Agreement ending the Hutus-Tutsis bloodshed in 1993. Burundi protesters argue that neither document allows for a presidential third term.

In order to resolve the apparent conflict, as President Pierre N has in fact already served two terms as he has been Burundi’s chief executive for ten years, since 2005, Burundi’s high court has ruled that the upcoming election will in fact be President Pierre N’s second term rather than his third. Put simply, the first term didn’t count. Notably, there have been reports that the court made its decision while under duress.

So far, efforts to avoid further violence have taken the form of modern Peace Talks in Tanzania. However, while President Pierre N was in Tanzania attending them, an apparent coup took place in Burundi. The coup was thwarted and President Pierre N returned to find his office intact. Meanwhile, President Pierre N has argued that his regime is in fact legitimate, as his government sends troops to assist in the peace-keeping efforts in Somalia.

Where we are now is as follows, Parliamentary Elections are set for June 5 and Presidential Elections are set for June 26. It is unknown how fair these elections will be, but even if Pierre N is elected by a majority, it is unknown if the interests of the Tutsi minority will be represented. Burundi is comprised of 85% Hutu and 15% Tutsi. If President Pierre N is reelected, his term will be 5 years so he will serve until 2020.

24,5. 2015.
Welles, Donna E.
Washington, DC.

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