Burundi: presidential term limits could be scratched

Burundi: presidential term limits could be scratched

A commission backed by Burundi’s government said most citizens in the troubled country do not want presidential term limits in the constitution, despite fierce opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s hold on to power which nearly plunged the country back to civil war.

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue Commission was set up last year by President Pierre Nkurunziza to find a lasting political solution to the crisis over the president’s pursuit of a third term beyond the two-term limit.

More than a quarter of a million people have fled violence in the East African country and at least 500 have died since opposition campaigns to President Nkurunziza third term stay in power failed to be ended by a coup.

Burundi’s opposition said it is an attempt by President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power.

“The findings are baseless, manipulated and don’t reflect the views of Burundians,” said Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesman for the umbrella National Council for the Restoration of Arusha Agreement and Rule of Law.

The opposition said Mr Nkurunziza’s stay in power violated the Arusha Accord, which ended the country civil war.

If abolished, Burundi will be the latest to join a list of African countries like Congo Republic, Rwanda and Chad who had scrapped term limits out of their constitution.

The capital Bujumbura continues to see sporadic violence and killings of many senior military and government officials with leading opposition figures and political activists.

Burundian authorities which are cracking down on dissidents said on Thursday it had arrested at least 8 members of a WhatsApp group for defaming the government and insulting public institutions. Rights campaigners said it is an example of a shrinking democratic space in Burundi following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s contested pursuit of a third term in office last year.

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