Burundi swears in new deputy president, political crisis lingers on

Friday, February 14, 2014

Prosper Bazombaza, a 53-year-old civil engineer and a member of Burundi's second largest party and main government partner, was sworn in on Friday new deputy president in the absence of his own party members who boycotted the ceremony in protest of his appointment.

Prosper Bazombaza, a 53-year-old civil engineer and a member of Burundi's second largest party and main government partner, was sworn in on Friday new deputy president in the absence of his own party members who boycotted the ceremony in protest of his appointment.

By Judith Basutama

BUJUMBURA - Prosper Bazombaza, a 53-year-old civil engineer and a member of Burundi's second largest party and main government partner, was sworn in on Friday new deputy president in the absence of his own party members who boycotted the ceremony in protest of his appointment.

President Pierre Nkurunziza had on Wednesday signed a decree appointing Bazombaza as first deputy president in replacement to Bernard Busokoza.

Article 128 of the Burundi constitution provides that if for any reason a deputy president leaves his post his successor must come from the same political party and ethnic background.

Although Bazombaza is a Tutsi like his predecessor and come from the same Union for National Progress, known by its French acronym, UPRONA, he is far from meeting the approval of UPRONA leaders.

"He was sworn in in the absence of MPs and Senators from UPRONA," Evariste Ngayimpenda, one of two leaders mandated by UPRONA steering committee to lead the party pending the election of a new leadership, told Anadolu Agency.

"They were not there either when he was endorsed by the parliament yesterday," Ngayimpenda added.

"That clearly shows that he [Bazombaza] does not represent UPRONA."

A row between UPRONA and the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) broke out in early February after the home affairs minister had appointed Bonaventure Niyoyankana as UPRONA chairman.

Niyoyankana replaced Charles Nditije, who was elected to the post at a 2012 UPRONA convention.

On February 1, Busokoza was sacked by President Nkurunziza for criticizing the move.

Three government ministers, all members of the Tutsi-dominated UPRONA, also resigned in protest.

The constitution and political parties law stipulate that party leaders must be elected at special party conventions.

Niyoyankana, for his part, later on renounced the post.

-Bad Choice-

Some opposition parties represented in the parliament also do not support the new deputy president's appointment.

Jean Minani from the opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi party said Bazombaza was not the right candidate.

"He is from UPRONA party but I did not see UPRONA MPs here," Minani told reporters after Bazombaza's endorsement by parliament.

"From other information we have on him, his activities and competence, I do not consider him the best candidate to that post," asserted the MP.

Ngayimpenda had submitted to the president three names of candidates to the post of deputy president.

The presidency ignored the nominations.

"What happened yesterday falls within the CNDD-FDD attempt to destabilize other political parties likely to challenge it in the coming elections," Ngayimpenda told AA.

"What happened only eliminated traitors within our party," he suggested.

"We will continue to decry the appointment and will refer to court if need be," Ngayimpenda said defiantly.

Some observers have linked the appointment crisis to broader differences between the ruling CNDD-FDD and UPRONA.

UPRONA opposes proposals to amend the constitution, which, if approved, would allow the president to run for a third term.

The draft amendment failed to be passed by the lower chamber of parliament last year after being opposed by all UPRONA MPs.

The latest crisis coincides with the 23nd anniversary of Burundi's adoption of a unity charter meant to diffuse Tutsi-Hutu tensions following decades of civil strife.

The last general census in 2009 put Burundi's total population at some 8 million.

The country's population is composed of three main ethnic components, with Hutus accounting for 85 percent, Tutsis 14 percent and the Twa people (pygmies) 1 percent.

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