BURUNDI: is the next President, Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye likely to succeed in bringing about real change?

As Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye is elected as CNDD-FDD party flag bearer, what is the likely chance that the new President will succeed in bringing about real change and making progress in the fight against poverty, corruption and normalization of relations with neighboring countries?

It is no doubt that CNDD-FDD flag bearer will win the country’s presidential election scheduled for May this year. CNDD-FFD’s candidate is not new in Burundi’s politics; he has hailed various posts in the military and has also served as minister of the interior and security.

Prior to his nomination as CNDD-FDD flag bearer,  it was widely expected  that Nkurunziza would  take advantage of recent constitutional changes adopted by a referendum to stand for re-election, raising concerns that Burundi would see a repeat of deadly unrest that erupted after he controversially stood for a third time in 2015.

The CNDD-FDD party has welcomed his decision to stand down, conferring on him the title of Supreme Guide of Patriotism and lavish send-off perks including a luxury villa and a one-off sum equivalent to more than $500,000. The amount is a fortune in Burundi where more than 65 percent live in poverty and where 50 percent of the country is food-insecure, according to the United Nations’s World Food Programme (WFP).

The Rise of Evariste Ndayishimiye

Evariste Ndayishimiye has gradually risen to the ranks and became one of the highest ranking generals in Burundi.

From 2003 he held various key functions: he has become the second in command and later served as the Minister of Internal Affairs and Security.  He was well placed in Positions where he yields influence in politics and military affairs.

Presidential and Legislative Elections, May 20

Burundi’s elections take place in the long shadow of the country’s 2015 elections when President Pierre Nkurunziza defied the constitution’s two-term limit to seek a third term. This reversed a period of multiethnic peace building that had been in motion since the signing of the Arusha Accords in 2000 ending the Burundian civil war. Nkurunziza’s move to extend his time in power set off widespread protests, which were violently suppressed. Subsequently, most of the country’s political opposition, civil society leaders, and independent media fled the country or have been imprisoned, tortured, or murdered.

The political crisis has also led to the fragmentation of the security sector. Many officers who refused to participate in the crackdown have also fled the country or joined armed opposition groups. Intimidation from Burundi’s police and youth militia, the Imbonerakure, who act in support of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, continue to characterize the political environment. Progress made toward military professionalism between 2000 and 2015 has been largely reversed, with the armed forces increasingly polarized along ethnic and political lines.

Will Pierre Nkurunziza still maintain political influence in Burundi?

No one doubts that the current president will also try to maintain his influence.  The current president has also moved into high gear in terms of personality cult and the spiritual foundation of it. He gave himself all kinds of snoring headlines, each more intimidating than the other: “Eternal Supreme Leader”; “Supreme Head of Patriotism”.

The fact that Nkurunziza does not run again as a candidate is probably explained by the fact that he understands that the support within his party is so small and comes at a personal risk.

No one doubts that he will also try to keep his influence and power.  But  this scenario might not work for him,  we have  seen  many  examples in Africa  were  such scenarios  have proven that things do not always go as planned.

The risk of an opposition candidate beating Ndayishimiye seems particularly low. The question is therefore probably: what is the chance that the new president will succeed in bringing about real change and making progress in the fight against poverty corruption and normalizing relations?

The answer to this question will depend, among other things, on how Evariste Ndayishimiye can overcome confrontations within the regime and how he is willing to fight his own way compared to his predecessor. The  good thing out of it is  that he is one of the few  political figures  in Burundi  who has managed to keep his personal integrity   and didn’t involve himself  in dubious  schemes aimed to enrich himself or to have been guilty of violating human rights.

As events unfold in Burundi; The Great Lakes Eye will keep you updated!

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