SA condemns Burundi coup attempt, calls for a democratic solution

2015-05-15 17:19
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

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South Africa does not believe the answer to Burundi’s problems lies in a coup d’etat, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has said.

Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists today that South Africa’s government “condemns in the strongest possible terms any attempt to change a demoratically elected government through unconstitutional means”, referring to the attempted coup by a part of the army in the capital Bujumbura on Wednesday and yesterday.

Asked whether South Africa supported a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza, Nkoana-Mashabane said the leaders of the East African Community “remain seized with working and giving support to the political leadership of Burundi to deal with that political aspect and their interpretation of their own constitution, whether second term meant end of this term, or earlier, or after,” she said.

Burundi’s constitutional court ruled in Nkurunziza’s favour when he claimed his first term didn’t count towards the two-term limit because he was elected then by Parliament, and not directly by the people.

This led to protests and the coup attempt.

“What we are emphasising is the solution to a political challenge and the interpretation thereof should not be that it leads to an unconstitutional change of government and unfortunate losses of innocent lives,” she said.

She said any change of government should be done democratically and in line with the 2000 Arush Agreement, which followed years of ethnic violence in Burundi.

“President [Jacob] Zuma sent envoys to Burundi and neighbouring countries very much in line with the peace process. We are still hopeful that in the spirit of finding African solutions for African problems even this political challenge of Burundi will be resolved,” she said.

She said Africa and the international community would not want to see Burundi “return to bloodshed again”.

She said: “South Africa reaffirms its support for the African Union’s principle rejection of unconstitutional change of government and its commitment to the rule of law and democratic processes and institutions.”

An official in the international relations department said the AU and regional bodies would likely have applied sanctions against Burundi, if the coup succeeded.

He added, however, that changing the constitution to extend a president’s time in power, known as “third term-ism”, was also considered unconstitutional, although the AU is sometimes slow to enforce sanctions on this.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended this week’s meeting of the East African Community in Tanzania, representing South Africa, which was part of the peace process in Burundi in the late 1990s and after.
Read more on:    maite nkoana-mashabane  |  burundi

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