On Monday, April 27, six men will officially start campaigning across Burundi all in competition to win the Presidential elections scheduled for May 20. Campaigning stops on May 17.
Candidates verified by (CENI), the National Independent Electoral Commission include; Gaston Sindimwo for Uprona Party, Agathon Rwasa for CNL party, Evariste Ndayishimiye for CNDD-FDD party, Léonce Ngendakumana for Sahwanya Frodebu party.
Other two are independent candidates including Francis Rohero and Dieudonné Nahimana.
These general elections combine three poll; the presidential election, legislative elections and district council elections.
The government mobilised the population to contribute funds for the general elections.
According to (CENI), the electoral body, it had received ten applications from presidential hopefuls but only six qualified.
“The four candidates were rejected because they did not meet requirements set by the national constitution or the electoral code, and failed to give further information,” CENI said.
UN Human Rights Council in March warned that the situation in Burundi continues to worsen – politically, economically as well as in terms of security.
It said the Imbonerakure, members of a youth league linked to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling party, have continued to carry out “killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment and rape against actual or alleged political opposition members,” the Council said.
Reports from opposition parties indicate that the National Intelligence Services and Police have intensified harassment and actions of intolerance against the opposition.
Taarifa has compiled details about the major candidates in this election.
Take a quick acclimatisation with the politics of Burundi, a country that is no stranger to coups and counter coups.
The most recent coup de tat was in 2015 aimed at removing President Pierre Nkurunziza who was away for a summit in Tanzania. The coup was foiled leading to years of political insecurity.
Agathon Rwasa (CNL Party)
Spokesperson for CNL party, Térence Manirambona, said on Friday that the National Freedom Council (CNL) party offices in different localities have been vandalized by state agents.
“About 100 party offices were destroyed. Unfortunately, some administrative are accomplices,” he says. Térence Manirambona also says there are 200 CNL party members illegally detained. “They were released by the courts but remain in prison for months and months,” he says.
Presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa, also flag bearer for CNL party said, “They will not be able to put us all behind bars…We will always stand.”
“Come rain or snow, we will continue our struggle until we take power. We owe it to the Burundians who are waiting for change.”
Gaston Sindimwo (UPRONA Party)
Also in this tough competition is the Union for National Progress (UPRONA), a nationalist political party celebrated for its role in gaining Burundian independence.
Uprona candidate is Gaston Sindimwo 55, currently serving as the First Vice President of Burundi.
He is underground and popular because his party has vast support and rich political experience. Uprona Party slogan in these elections is “Yes, It is Possible”.
On relations with Rwanda, Sindimwo said in 2019 during an interview with the East African Newspaper that, “We would like to normalise the situation because Burundi needs Rwanda and Rwanda needs Burundi and that will come progressively.”
“You can choose your friend but you can’t choose your neighbour, that’s why we hope that the relations will improve progressively,” Sindimwo said.
Sindimwo has represented President Pierre Nkurunziza in various avenues and analysts say he does almost all the administrative work including chairing various cabinet meetings.
“I represent the president in various meetings as part of my mandate as the First Vice President,” he said, rejecting claims that this was a learning experience to prepare him to take over from Nkurunziza.
Léonce Ngendakumana (Frodebu Party)
The Front for Democracy in Burundi was founded in 1992 and won the 1993 democratic elections.
Léonce Ngendakumana is the flag bearer of this party. He considers the present socio-political situation in Burundi as proof that democracy achievements are being eroded.
“Majority of Burundians live in physical insecurity, poverty, misery, hunger, unemployment and ignorance. They remain exposed to death, prison, and exile,“ said Ngendakumana.
He argues that under such circumstances, dignity and democracy for the people remain empty words. “It becomes difficult to say the people are sovereign, the source and holders of power.”
According to him, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, adopted in 2000 and the 2005 Constitution, have not brought stability in the country.
Maj. Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye (CNDD-FDD Party)
Political insiders in Burundi say Maj. Gen. Evariste Ndayishimiye is one of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s trusted military officers. He runs the department of military affairs in the president’s office.
This General is the flag bearer for the ruling party National Council for the Defense of Democracy, Forces for the Defense of Democracy.
He has all the security apparatus including state sponsored militia Imbonerakure. These are instruments very crucial in the May 20 elections that opposition strongly believes will be used to rig the elections.
Political Pundits argue that the General may be Nkurunziza’s favourite with military management skills, but lacks the diplomatic charisma to handle the country’s top office.
Some argue that the current situation in Burundi requires someone with military experience but only if Burundi is to remain isolated from the world.
Other analysts say that the retirement of President Nkurunziza requires that he gets replaced by someone with a more diplomatic stature capable of negotiating for the return of Burundi to both regional and global engagements.
But among the existing candidates non has a combination of all the qualities.
Each of them is strong in one domain and thus political experts fear that elections may not bring a fundamental change but a mere change of guards.