Never before in the history of Burundi has the country’s peace depended solely on one man—Pierre Nkurunziza.
The whole world, but most especially the Burundian people themselves, know the recent history of this East African nation—a history that turned the nation topsy-turvy (upside down). Bloodshed and instability ensued. Yes, it started just eight months ago, last April, when President
Nkurunziza made his ominous announcement that, despite the constitutional restriction and clear and unmistakable opposition of his people, he would seek a third term of office.
To demonstrate their opposition and distaste for this unconstitutional move by their President, the people took to the streets demonstrating against his decision. But instead of bowing to the will of the people, instead of sensing the resolute undercurrent of discontent in the country, the President responded with brutality and bloodshed, killing, maiming and imprisoning anyone his ruthless security forces could put their hands on.
The situation became so desperate that neighboring Rwandan President Paul Kagame was forced to ask, “What kind of politics is this”—killing people every day just to stay in power against the will of the people.
President Kagame had reason to be disturbed by the horrendous developments in Burundi. Already thousands of Burundians, fleeing the widening violence, had voted, with their feet next door into Rwanda seeking refuge. President Kagame feared the outbreak of civil war in Burundi, which would seriously threaten the peace in the sub-region and in Rwanda itself—a country which, under his astute and progressive leadership, has over the past decade made serious and remarkable economic, political and economic progress.
So successful has Rwanda become that it shines as a highly positive example of good governance and progress. For this reason, the people last week voted in a referendum to change the constitution to allow their enlightened, forward-looking and successful to seek a third term of office.
Our only prayer is that President Paul Kagame, realizing that his prospective reelection would mark his last term of office, will not change course by relaxing his progressive, development-oriented program and start taking the people and everything else for granted.
We think the warning is appropriate and timely because we have seen it in all too many places, where leaders in their last term just sit and do little or nothing, leaving the country stagnant and retrogressive and the people in a state of despondency, despair and decay.
Some leaders in their last term also turn repressive, and start ruling the country with an iron fist, causing more suffering and economic and financial suffocation.
President Kagame must avoid this at all cost and let the light of one East African nation radiate throughout the continent, inspiring others.
But how can President Nkurunziza bring peace to Burundi? He can do so by developing the courage, goodwill and compassion for his suffering and troubled people by resigning the presidency. This alone will immediately restore the peace in Burundi and cause the people to rejoice and even thank him for diffusing the rising political chaos threatening the country. The people would be happy and so would he, and the country would be restored to peace and normalcy, ready even at additional expense, to stage a new free, fair and transparent election that would cause the world, too, to rejoice and be glad in the New Year, 2016.
Perhaps this is something President Kagame can make happen by visiting his fellow President and giving him a simple advice—“Step aside and restore the peace in your country. Your people will thank you for it.”