Burundi has seen more deaths in the protests against President Nkurunziza’sdecision to run for a third term. Ex-President Domitien Ndayizeye tells DW why he thinks Nkurunziza should step back.
DW: Mr Ndayizeye, you were Burundi's interim president for three years after many years of civil war, which way ended by the Arusha peace deal. You worked on the country's new constitution, which also lays down the rules on who can run for the presidency. So, in your view, does the constitution actually allow the candidacy of incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza?
Domitien Ndayizeye: No, according to the peace deal reached in Arusha, which is the reference point for the new constitution, the president cannot run again. The reason is simple: when we drafted the Arusha peace agreement, we decided to limit the presidency to two terms. These are binding terms. We also agreed that the president should be voted in directly by the people every five years – with one chance to be voted into office for a second time.
President Nkurunziza was voted into power as your successor in 2005. He was however not elected by the people, but by the parliament. Why did this happen?
When we laid down the details of the presidential elections, we realized that we could not hold direct elections. Many Burundians had fled the country and what was left, were the armed groups. Burundian people also had no experience in direct elections and the peace mediators in Arusha were worried about a possible outbreak in ethnic violence. That is why we decided to hold the first elections after the transitional period indirectly, through parliament, as described by Paragraph 302 of the constitution. The elected president after the interim-government, was supposed to have a strong mandate in the country and in parliament. He therefore needed a two-third majority in parliament.
President Nkurunziza argues that he can run for another term because the constitution allows for two direct elections by the Burundian people. Up to now, he has only been elected directly once.
This is the argument with which they are trying to find their way around the Arusha agreement. If you read the document it clearly states that no president should govern for more than two terms. During his time in office, Nkurunziza has taken all the decisions he wanted to take and had all the rights of a president. There is not reason to destabilize the country. Even if he believes that he only had one term in office, I don't understand why he wants to continue down this road if people are protesting. It should be plain and simple under these circumstances and in the interest of the country, why he should not run for another term. The CNDD-FDD party should not support him as a candidate for juristic and constitutional reasons, and out of national interest.
We decided to give a president two terms in office because if he does a good job, he should not even have the energy for a third mandate. He should rest and let other continue the work. If he really wants to continue, he can assist the new government as an advisor.
The parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled for May 26 and June 26. Will you be running for the presidency yourself?
I have been selected as the presidential candidate of the National Rally for Change. We are still holding talks with other political parties in order to form a larger coalition. I hope that we can agree on one single candidate, but until then, I will remain the party's candidate.
Domitien Ndayizeye was interim president of Burundi from April 2003 to August 2005.
Interview: Eric Topona