Burundian president received SA peace award 6 years ago

2015-05-05 20:26
President Pierre Nkurunziza (File: AFP)

President Pierre Nkurunziza (File: AFP)

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Durban - As South Africans look north and wonder exactly what is unfolding in Burundi, few will remember that less than a decade ago President Pierre Nkurunziza was lavishly fêted in Durban for his efforts at peace.

The Durban-based organisation, the Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Accord), presented him with the sixth Africa Peace Award on behalf of his nation in June 2006.

Last week, Burundi saw massive protests with police reportedly using live ammunition and killing at least 12 people, according to the Red Cross. There are also reports of several thousand people fleeing across the country’s border into neighbouring Rwanda out of fear of what might transpire.

And the cause of the protests is nothing more than Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.

The opposition have claimed that he has already served two terms, but his supporters argue that his first term does not count as the constitution says an elected president can serve a maximum of two terms.

Their argument is that he was appointed by parliament and not elected to his first term and is therefore entitled to seek a third term.

The man to hand him the award at a glittering function in Durban’s City Hall was none other than then-president Thabo Mbeki, who had himself been accused of attempting to seek a third term as ANC president.

At the time that he received the award, Nkurunziza said: "I and my government will continue to do everything to give Burundians peace, justice and democracy and to improve the lives of all Burundians."

In the years that followed, Nkurunziza would go on to receive many more awards for the peace he was said to have brought to the country.

In 2009, he received the “Model Leader for a New Africa Award" from the African Forum on Religion and Government. As recently March 4, Nkurunziza received a peace award from the Ugandan charity Always Be Tolerant, or as it is commonly called, Abeto.

Abeto chairperson Moses Musana was quoted by the Ugandan newspaper as saying that Nkurunziza was “a man of peace and a peacemaker”.

However, even before this last award the clouds were gathering when he announced last year that groups of people could not jog together.

The mayoral spokesperson for Burundi’s capital city Bujumbura told the news agency AFP that opposition parties were using jogging groups to organise “uprisings”.

Candide Kazatsa said that two people constituted a group, but that people could run individually.

The constitutional court of Burundi ruled on Tuesday that Nkurunziza could stand for a third term, but the peace for which he was so lauded may not keep, especially after the vice president of Burundi’s constitutional court, Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse, fled the country on Monday.

AFP reported that Nimpagaritse had claimed that a majority of the court's seven judges believed it would be unconstitutional for Nkurunziza to stand again, but had faced "enormous pressure and even death threats" to force them to change their minds.

"In my soul and conscience, I decided not to put my signature to a ruling, a decision which is clearly not lawful that would be imposed from the outside, and which has nothing legal about it," Nimpagaritse told AFP.

Read more on:    pierre nkurunziza  |  burundi  |  east africa

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