Pierre Nkurunziza has set up a commission to propose within 6 months a revision of Burundi’s constitution, which could include the scrapping of the two-term presidential term limit imposed by the constitution.
President Nkurunziza set up the commission on Friday, a few hours after he received the report of public consultations which indicated that a majority of the 26,000 people consulted favoured scrapping the presidential term limits.
Nkurunziza whose third term presidential bid triggered massive protests which led to the over 500 people being killed and over 300,000 more fleeing the country has said he would run for a fourth term if the people of Burundi asked him to.
“The people can decided whenever they want (to revise) the constitution,” Nkurunziza is quoted by AFP as saying, suggesting that he was up for a revision of the current constitution, Article 96 of which provides that the head of state shall be elected for a five-year renewable term.
The different interpretations of this constitutional provision has been at the heart of the country’s political crisis.
President Nkurunziza was first elected in 2005 by parliament as part of a mechanism to end the country’s 13-year civil war. He was again elected through universal adult suffrage in 2010. He thus does not consider his first term in 2005 to count as it was not by universal adult suffrage hence his decision to contest the 2015 polls.
The opposition and civil society however consider this 2015 election to be his third term and thus a violation of the constitution.
During his swearing-in in 2015, Nkurunziza promised not to seek another term in office but with the start of a process for a revision of the constitution, he might well be on course to seeking another term.
The coalition of opposition parties in Burundi and the diaspora has however condemned the president’s attempt to revise the constitution describing it as part of Nkurunziza’s plans to “rule for life”.
President of the opposition coalition, Cnared, Charles Nditije told the AFP the move is “a declaration of war against the people of Burundi” which will not be permitted.
He however said it was ‘necessary’ to await the findings of the commission and urged the opposition to “respect the Burundian people” as they are the ones who wield the power .