O Power–Power! How cruelly addictive can you be, defying everything, including the very Constitution, the basic law of every land, and even the people the leaders claim so much to love, to the extent of killing them just to hold on to Power!
That is the situation with the President of the Great Lakes East African nation of Burundi that has already endured 13 years of civil war. But 13 years of suffering, destruction and death seem not enough a tragedy for President Pierre Nkurunziza. He seems determined to threaten the country with renewed civil war by attempting to run for a third term of office, which most of his compatriots disapprove of. The Constitution allows for two terms only.
However, President Nkurunziza raised a technicality stating that his first term was not awarded by popular vote, which he believes gives him the right to seek a third term of office. That decision immediately sparked widespread demonstrations by civil society groups, students and women, resulting in violent government resistance and many deaths already.
But the president's decision to run for a third term, announced April 25, was already met with internal opposition within the ruling CNDD-FDD Party. This led to the expulsion of members opposed to his third term bid. Also removed from party leadership were the Wisemen Council, the second VP and national assembly chairman, who also opposed Nkurunziza's third term bid.
The Senate referred the matter to the constitutional court. Amid the popular demonstrations against his candidacy, government closed several independent radio stations which broadcast the protests. By mid-April already, some 20,000 war-weary Burundians, fearing violence that has plagued them for so long, fled into Rwanda as refugees.
Earlier this week forces loyal to President Nkurunziza rushed into a Bujumbura hospital and opened fire on patients. It appears Nkurunzisa will go to any lengths, even killing innocent patients in hospitals, to stay in power.
The uncertainty in Burundi led some ambitious general to attempt a coup d'état last Thursday while President Nkurunziza was attending a conference in Tanzania. A Burundian scholar said at the onset of the coup, President Nkurunziza "brought it upon himself." Now that forces loyal to him have defeated the coup makers, will this president learn a lesson–that there is too much discontent in the country over his third term bid and, for the sake of national unity and peace, he should consider the better judgment of gracefully bowing out and passing the torch to another?
Have African leaders like Nkurunziza who claim to love, admire and respect President Nelson Mandela so much, learned nothing from him?
Some African leaders, because of their incessant and unquenchable greed for power, continue to terrorize their people not only with open repression but with violence and instability that cause tens of thousands to vote with their feet into exile as refugees. How long will this be allowed to go on when the continent direly needs stability for development to take root and for the now independent nations of Africa to also be liberated from their existence of deprivation, disease, ignorance and dependency?
The people of Burundi, like the people of next door Rwanda, have been through too much to risk a return to internal strife, which will, one way or another, most likely affect both countries and the entire sub-region. And once there has been one attempted coup, another will most likely soon follow, for the president has already exposed himself as being a leader with widespread disapproval.
That is not because he has not been a popular leader. He was, and that is why the people made him their president for two terms. But why go beyond that when the constitution, the basic law of the land, limits the presidency to two terms? Surely Mr. Nkurunziza can serve his country in ways other than the presidency. He could teach at a university or go into business or start a think tank. Why risk the wrath of his people by forcing himself upon them?