by Millicent Zighe
The Constitutional Court
of Burundi has upheld the election of president Evariste Ndayishimiye,
dismissing the opposition’s request that the court overturn the results because
vote fraud and voter intimidation marred the presidential election.
Burundi held General Elections on May 20 at a time the
International Criminal Court’s prosecutor is investigating Burundian state
agents and others for crimes against humanity they are alleged to have
committed between April 2015 and October 2017.
constitutional court rules that the presidential election held on May 20 was
regular, that Evariste Ndayishimiye is the president-elect,” said the seven-judge
panel in a unanimous judgement.
The petition the Constitutional Court
dismissed on Thursday was filed by the runner-up in the election, Agathon
Rwasa. His May 28 petition alleged, among other things, that dead people were
listed in the voters’ register affecting the credibility of the presidential
Burundi’s constitution, the Constitutional Court’s decision is final. Before
Thursday’s decision Rwasa had told The Associated Press news agency that he
would take his petition to the East African Court of Justice should the
Constitutional Court rule in Ndayishimiye’s favour. It is unclear whether such
a legal move will affect the results of the Burundian presidential poll.
After the court
rendered its verdict, Rwasa expressed disappointment in the decision but
promised to respect the rule of law. In
the same update, he backtracked on his earlier decision to take the case to the
East African Court of Justice.
didn’t appreciate the decision but we have taken note of it. We won’t make any
appeal to the East African Community as previously announced. It isn’t a court
of appeal,” said Agathon Rwasa in an interview with Iwacu Press Limited.
On May 25, Burundi’s electoral body, the Independent National
Electoral Commission (known by its French acronym, CENI), declared Ndayishimiye
the winner of the presidential election, saying he won 68.7 per cent of the
votes cast. Ndayishimiye was the presidential candidate of the Council for the
Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party. Agathon
Rwasa, the candidate of the National Council for Liberation (CNL), was declared
runner-up with 24.19 per cent of the
votes. In total seven candidates contested the presidential election and the
CENI said the voter turnout was 87 per cent.
Rwasa is not the
only one who questioned the credibility of the May 20 presidential poll. The
Conference of Catholic Bishops of Burundi also questioned its validity reporting that their observers at polling
centres across the country witnessed electoral fraud and malpractice.
the many irregularities regarding the freedom and transparency of the electoral
process, as well as fairness in the treatment of certain candidates and
voters,” said the head of the conference, Bishop Joachim Ntahondereye in
an interview with The Associated Press news agency.
In a report
released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) at the start of official campaigns on
April 27, violence, mainly against opposition members and independent voices,
was recorded in at least a third of Burundi’s provinces. The abuse was mainly
perpetrated by the local authorities, security forces and members of the
Imbonerakure, a youth militia allied to the ruling party.
Access Now, an
international non-profit, human rights, public policy, and advocacy group
dedicated to an open and free Internet, also reported that Internet
connectivity was disconnected to prevent people from monitoring and reporting
cases of electoral fraud.
is among the groups the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is investigating
for their alleged involvement in crimes against humanity that the OTP allege
occurred between April 2015 and October 2017. The crimes are alleged to have
occurred when violence erupted in April 2015 after Pierre Nkurunziza announced
he was going to seek a third term as president. Opposition supporters protested
Nkurunziza’s move and the government clamped down on the protests.
According to the
United Nations, an estimated 1,200 people were killed in that violence and
400,000 Burundians fled their country to seek refuge in neighbouring Congo,
Rwanda and Tanzania as well as further away in Kenya and Uganda. Following that
violence and the international outcry against it, the United Nations Human
Rights Council set up in September 2016 a Commission of Inquiry on Burundi to
investigate and monitor the human rights situation in the country. The
commission continues its work to date.
In October 2017, the
ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II granted the prosecution’s request to be allowed to
investigate that violence in Burundi because in the chamber’s view there was a
basis to believe state agents and groups together with members of the
Imbonerakure may have carried out widespread and systematic attacks against
civilians in Burundi.
limited the prosecution’s investigation to up to October 25, 2017 because by
then Burundi had given its one-year notice to withdraw as a member of the ICC.
The chamber said the prosecution could investigate allegations of crimes
committed when Burundi was still an ICC member but not after the Central
African country ceased to be a member of the court. Burundi ceased being an ICC
member on October 27, 2017.
It is not
publicly known what Ndayishimiye’s position is on Burundi’s withdrawal from the
ICC. But he is reported to have initially opposed Nkurunziza’s quest for a
third term in April 2015. At the time Ndayishimiye worked in the Office of the
President. Since 2006 he has been a senior member of government working either as
a Cabinet minister or as a presidential adviser.
been expected to contest the 2020 presidential poll, especially after he supported
constitutional amendments that increased presidential powers and the
president’s term of office to seven years, from five years. Those amendments passed
in a 2018 referendum. At the beginning of this year, to the surprise of many, Nkurunziza
did not seek to be nominated as CNDD-FDD’s presidential candidate.
Instead, Ndayishimiye was chosen as the party’s candidate. Despite Ndayishimiye’s close to 14 years working under Nkurunziza, he was not Nkurunziza’s first choice as presidential candidate. It is reported that Nkurunziza preferred Pascal Nyabenda, the President of the National Assembly, to be the CNDD-FDD presidential candidate. Burundi’s top generals, however, are reported to have supported Ndayishimiye’s nomination as presidential
be sworn in for a seven-year term in late August, when Nkurunziza’s term expires.