Agathon Rwasa, the leader of Burundi’s main opposition National Liberation Forces (FNL) party says he will not participate in any “fake” elections that are unlikely to be free, fair and credible.
Rwasa also says President Pierre Nkurunziza should step down to allow another person to lead the ruling CNDD-FDD party in the elections in an effort to help to restore peace and the country’s stability.
“Nkurunziza better step aside and leave space for another one from his political party, otherwise he would be trampling [on] the constitution and try to annihilate the Arusha agreement, which we cannot agree with,” he said.
But, supporters of the CNDD-FDD have rejected calls for Nkurunziza to step down. They argue that the party has the right to choose who leads the party in elections.
Rwasa’s comments came after other opposition parties announced they would boycott both the presidential and the legislative elections, saying the vote would not be transparent.
Not a Climate for Fair Elections
In an interview with VOA, Rwasa said the country’s current political crisis is not favorable to peaceful elections.
“All Burundians are not ready to participate in a fake election like the one which is the preoccupation of President Pierre Nkurunziza and his so called CENI [Electoral Commission],” he said.
“What we want is a process which can be free and fair. In the [current] conditions, there is no room for democratic elections. All that we can say is that there is a need to urgently deal with these challenges as stated by the heads of state of this region where we are all invited to a dialogue so as to build up [a] conducive environment which may lead to a free and fair election,” he added.
Rwasa says opposition and civil society leaders are afraid for their lives, since militia groups loyal to the government have yet to be disarmed.
He says the violence that forced over 100,000 Burundians to flee into neighboring countries, including Rwanda and Tanzania, has not been resolved.
Rwasa also says CENI does not meet stipulations in the constitution to organize any elections. Two senior members of the electoral body left the country citing security concerns.
“It [should] compose of five commissioners who are from different ethnic groups and who belong to different gender,” he said. “Now, we have two commissioners who have fled the country…Besides this, the three members who remained are all males and from one ethnic group. So it is a team which is unbalanced, which doesn’t fit the condition of such a commission according to the constitution.”
Rwasa says there is a need to constitute a new and independent electoral commission that would administer credible elections.
He expressed concern that dialogue between the government, civil society and opposition groups has failed, despite recent calls by regional leaders that urged Burundi stakeholders to hold talks in a bid to end the crisis.
Rwasa says the opposition is ready to talk with the administration to end the political stalemate.
“It’s a pity that there [are] no talks anymore, but we are still available for that. Unfortunately, we see that the government is determined to do the things it likes, and that is why Nkurunziza is issuing all these decrees, and trying to say that there is no room for a dialogue with regards to his bid to run for a third term,” he said.