Burundi opposition names presidential contender


Burundi’s opposition CNL picked current chairman of the National Assembly as its candidate in the May presidential election which the UN says is likely to be marred by violence.

Former rebel leader, Agathon Rwasa (56) fought in Burundi’s civil war, as did current President Pierre Nkurunziza, who will not seek re-election in May. Like the president, he comes from the province of Ngozi and the same ethnic group, the Hutu.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world and lost donor funding in 2015 after political violence post-elections.

The East African nation is struggling to come to terms with a violent past, characterised by colonial occupation, civil war and decades of intermittent massacres.

The population is divided between Tutsi and Hutu. Some 300 000 people were killed in the civil war which ended in 2005.

Rwasa denounced what he said were plans by the ruling party to rig the election.

“As we approach elections, it’s surprising to hear there are people thinking about rigging elections. Burundians will not let them do it,” he told delegates after his appointment.

In January the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, chose as its candidate its secretary general, Evariste Ndayishimiye, a retired army general who heads the department of military affairs in the president’s office and served as minister of the interior and security.

Government could not be reached for comment on accusations to rig the vote.

The UN warns human rights abuses might increase ahead of the elections. Since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third, disputed term in office, hundreds of Burundians died in clashes with security forces.

The UN denounced serious human rights violations, including killings, disappearances, torture and gang rape of alleged political opponents, perpetrated by police, security forces and the ruling party’s youth league, the Imbonerakure.