Burundian President Promises to Step Down in 2020

BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI, 14 JUNE 2018 – Burundi’s long-serving president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has surprised many observers by announcing that he intends to step down at the end of his current term.

“I will not go back on my word. Our mandate ends in 2010,” Nkurunziza said in a speech to his supporters and diplomats gathered in the town of Gitega, in the central region of the central African nation.

Most observers had expected him to take advantage of changes to term limits in the constitution to seek re-election for two more terms.

Violence erupted across Burundi in 2015 when Nkurunziza stood for a third time in violation of the then constitution.

More than 73 percent of Burundi’s 4.7 million voters approved changes in a referendum last month extending the length of the president’s term from five years to seven.

Without offering to step down, Nkurunziza, 54, who has been in power since 2005, could have sought another 14 years in power at the end of his current term in 2020.

Few in the opposition want to believe that Nkrurunziza will keep his word. “He has lied to us since long ago,” said Frederic Bamvuginyumvira, a former vice president who currently leads the opposition Sahwanya-FRODEBU party.

A presidential decree in Burundi criminalizes any calls for people to abstain from voting, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.

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