Burundi: Main opposition picks presidential flagbearer

Burundi’s main opposition party, the National Congress for Liberty, known by its French acronym CNL, on Sunday picked the current chairman of the National Assembly, Agathon Rwasa, as its candidate in the presidential election in May.

 

The 65-year-old candidate fought in Burundi’s civil war, as did current President Pierre Nkurunziza.

 

“As we are approaching elections, it’s surprising to hear that there are people thinking about rigging elections… Burundians will not let them do it,” Rwasa told delegates of his party after his appointment was announced.

 

In January, Burundi’s governing party has said Secretary General Evariste Ndayishimiye will be its candidate in the country’s presidential election.

 

An ally of Nkurunziza, 52-year-old Ndayishimiye also heads the department of military affairs in the president’s office and has served as minister of the interior and security.

 

Nkurunziza, who came to office in 2005, announced in June that he will not seek re-election.

 

The 55-year-old was widely expected to take advantage of recent constitutional changes adopted by a referendum to stand for re-election, raising concerns that Burundi would see a repeat of deadly unrest that erupted after he controversially stood for a third time in 2015.

 

The ruling CNDD-FDD party has welcomed his decision to step down, conferring on him the title of Supreme Guide of Patriotism and lavish send-off perks including a luxury villa and a one-off sum equivalent to more than $500,000.

 

The United Nations has warned that human rights abuses might increase again ahead of the elections. Since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third disputed term in office, hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces.

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