Burundi’s main opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential elections is Agathon Rwasa, a former rebel leader and rival of outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza.
The National Congress for Liberty, known by its French acronym CNL, selected Rwasa to be its candidate in the May 20 presidential election.
Rwasa was the leading opposition candidate in two previous elections but boycotted the 2010 and 2015 polls charging there was too much repression of his supporters. Both those elections were won by Nkurunziza. The 2015 election sparked off protests that led to an attempted coup by those unhappy at Nkurunziza extending his time in power to a third term. The military quashed the coup attempt and those involved have been jailed or are facing trial.
Political violence persists in Burundi even though Nkurunziza will not be a candidate in the May elections. Nkurunziza, who has served three terms, is expected to remain influential behind the scenes.
Burundi’s ruling party in late January chose an army general to be its candidate in the presidential election, signaling that Nkurunziza will now retire after serving three terms.
Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye was chosen during a national conference for the ruling CNDD-FDD party that was held in the rural province of Gitega.
Hundreds died or were abducted and are missing in a crackdown by the security agencies on protesters in the months that followed Nkurunziza’s 2015 election, according to human rights groups.
The abuses persist and are targeting opposition supporters, according to rights groups. Most of the victims of the repression are members of Rwasa’s CNL, according to a report by the Burundi Human Rights Initiative.