Burunda’s President Évariste Ndayishimiye responded two months ahead of the schedule on Thursday following the sudden death of his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza. He takes care of the fate of a divided, isolated, poor country confronted with the Covid-19 epidemic.
Évariste Ndayishimiye responded to Ingoma Stadium in Gitega, the country’s administrative capital, on Thursday 18 June. “I pledge loyalty to the Charter of National Unity, the Constitution of Burundi and the Law …,” said the new Head of State.
Because of the sanitary situation, the authorities had asked the public to show up early enough to follow the sanitary measures, such as hand washing and temperature. No foreign head of state could participate.
But the safety distance, set at 70 cm between people, was far from being respected. And apart from a few officials, almost no one wore a mask. The new president himself had revealed his face.
Elected presidential election on May 20, Évariste Ndayishimiye was originally to take office on August 20, at the end of Pierre Nkurunziza’s term in office. The sudden death of the latter on June 8, at the age of 55 after 15 years of power, changed the situation.
To avoid a period of uncertainty that could have destabilized Burundi, whose history is punctuated by deadly political crises and a long civil war (300,000 dead between 1993 and 2006), the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, decided to accelerate the transition.
“Continue the work” off Pierre Nkurunziza
The Constitutional Court, which was acquired by the President, therefore recommended that Évariste Ndayishimiye begin his seven-year term as soon as possible, without an interim period. When he died, which presented him as his “heir”, General Ndayishimiye undertook to “continue his work”.
The new head of state is one of the key players in a power that carried a deadly repression that left more than 1,200 dead and led 400,000 Burundians into exile, following Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial candidacy for a third term in April 2015.
He did not prevent atrocities against opponents, human rights activists and independent journalists, especially committed by Imbonerakure, youths in the CNDD-FDD. After all, he was not personally involved in such abuses and is seen as more tolerant than his predecessor and not as part of the most harmless part of the regime.
Pierre Nkurunziza’s disappearance, which would remain very influential, could give him a little more elbow room. But analysts question its ability to liberate itself from the group of generals who hold the power of power and unite a country still traumatized by the 2015 crisis.
If he tries to reform “he runs the risk of encountering obstacles, reluctance from the generals who are interested in protecting themselves,” predicts Carina Tertsakian, Human Rights Initiative in Burundi.
During the inauguration ceremony, the Archbishop of Gitega, Mgr Simon Ntamwana, publicly opposed the 2015 term of office of Pierre Nkurunziza, the new president to bring “peace between Burundians”.
The international community, including the most important donors from Burundi (EU, Belgium, Germany …), which has introduced sanctions since 2015, seems ready to give Évariste Ndayishimiye a chance.
He has launched some signs of openness towards him and can try to get his country out of its isolation, which is so financially damaging.
Burundi, 3e the poorest country
Burundi is ranked among the three poorest countries in the world by the World Bank, which estimates that 75% of the population lives below the poverty line, against 65% when Pierre Nkurunziza came to power in 2005.
Évariste Ndayishimiye had promised during the campaign to make the eradication of poverty and development of the country his priority.
However, the first challenge is the coronavirus epidemic. Pierre Nkurunziza had upheld the election, refusing to restrict the population and assuring Burundi that it was protected by “divine grace”.
But Burundians today wonder if the ex-president, who according to a medical source contacted by the AFP was in “respiratory distress” at the time of his death, did not himself succumb to this disease.
Burundi has officially listed 104 cases of Covid-19 for a single death. This assessment leaves many doctors skeptical, according to which many cases and deaths of people who show symptoms of the virus have been excluded from official figures.