Listen Download Podcast
  • RFI English News flash 04h00 - 04h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 04h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 04h10 - 04h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/18 04h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 05h00 - 05h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 05h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 05h10 - 05h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/18 05h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h00 - 06h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 06h00 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h10 - 06h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/18 06h10 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 06h30 - 06h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 06h30 GMT
  • Paris Live AM 06h33 - 06h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/18 06h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h00 - 07h10 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 07h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 07h30 - 07h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/18 07h30 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/15 14h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h00 - 14h06 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/17 14h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 14h03 - 14h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/15 14h03 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h06 - 14h30 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/17 14h06 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 14h30 - 14h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/17 14h30 GMT
  • Paris Live PM 14h33 - 14h59 GMT Mon-Fri
    Features and analysis 07/17 14h33 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h03 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/15 16h00 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h00 - 16h06 GMT Sat-Sun
    News bulletin 07/17 16h00 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h03 - 16h30 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/15 16h03 GMT
  • RFI English News flash 16h30 - 16h33 GMT Mon-Fri
    News bulletin 07/17 16h30 GMT
  • Paris Live Weekend 16h33 - 17h00 GMT Sat-Sun
    Features and analysis 07/15 16h33 GMT
To take full advantage of multimedia content, you must have the Flash plugin installed in your browser. To connect, you need to enable cookies in your browser settings. For an optimal navigation, the RFI site is compatible with the following browsers: Internet Explorer 8 and above, Firefox 10 and +, Safari 3+, Chrome 17 and + etc.
Africa

Faced by weakened opposition, Burundi's Nkurunziza bids to extend rule

media Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a campaign on Tuesday for constitutional changes that could keep him in power until 2034. Coming two years after a violent crackdown on opponents of Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, it is unclear what form opposition to the move will take.

On the recommendation of a national advisory board, Burundi’s government has organised a referendum for early 2018 on constitutional changes that would allow Nkurunziza  to seek up to two more seven-year terms after his current mandate ends in 2020.

As he announced his party’s campaign in favour of the proposals at a rally of supporters on Tuesday, Nkurunziza threatened anyone who might plan to undermine the referendum.

“We take this opportunity to warn those who want to sabotage this project, whether by speech or actions,” Nkurunziza said. “It will be a red line.”

Political opponents merely see a newer and bolder attempt of Nkurunziza to remain in office beyond the democratic limits, two years after seeking and winning a controversial third presidential term.

“We do not need a lifetime president, but this is a man who just wants to instal a dictatorship in Burundi,” says Jérémie Minani, an opposition figure who ran against Nkurunziza in 2015 and now lives in exile in Brussels.

“He claims that it’s coming from the consultation made by the national commission but that commission is pretty much led by the regime,” Minani continues. “The purpose of the commission is obviously to help this man remain in power for his entire life.”

Turmoil in 2015

Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into months of demonstrations, police crackdowns, attacks, arrests and exiles of opposition figures.

As many as 2,000 people are estimated to have died in the turmoil and the International Criminal Court has begun looking into alleged crimes.

If it does go ahead, the referendum would happen in an environment hostile to United Nations and other external observers as well as to any possible dissent.

“If you take all the signs of not just current Burundi but also what’s happened since the uprising back in 2015, it does not look like there will be conditions for a free and fair referendum,” says Alex Fielding, a Stockholm-based security analyst on African affairs with risk consultancy 4C Strategies.

Opposition weakened

On the one hand, the new moves could stoke new discontent that would renew the violence of recent years.

“Millions of Burundians will not accept a lifetime presidency,” Minani says. “In the coming months or even weeks, we’re going to start seeing people stand up and say no.”

But on the other hand, the government crackdown of the past two years has also changed Burundi’s political landscape, prompting Minani and others to flee abroad.

“There is no more opposition really active in the country,” says Florent Geel, Africa director of the International Federation for Human Rights.

“The level of the control of the ruling party on all sectors of society seems to be such that we can speak about total control of the state by the ruling party,” he continues. “I think it will be just a formality for the President Nkurunziza to organise this referendum and change the constitution.”

The government’s response to the opposition in 2015 has also changed Burundi’s security landscape, making widespread popular resistance less likely than more isolated but more radical forms of dissent.

“The climate of fear and suppression is such that I wouldn’t foresee large-scale public protests, like we saw in 2015,” says Alex Fielding.

“He has so changed the security dynamic since then and he has so pushed down the opposition and cracked down in a very violent way, that it would be more guerrilla violence, grenade attacks and attacks on other regime figures, rather than a large-scale public uprising that we have seen in the past.”

Related
 
Sorry but the period of time connection to the operation is exceeded.