Nkurunziza makes Bid to Extend Rule

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a campaign on Tuesday for constitutional changes that could keep him in power until 2034.

Coming two years after a violent crackdown on opponents of Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, it is unclear what form opposition to the move will take.

On the recommendation of a national advisory board, Burundi's government has organised a referendum for early 2018 on constitutional changes that would allow Nkurunziza to seek up to two more seven-year terms after his current mandate ends in 2020.

As he announced his party's campaign in favour of the proposals at a rally of supporters on Tuesday, Nkurunziza threatened anyone who might plan to undermine the referendum.

"We take this opportunity to warn those who want to sabotage this project, whether by speech or actions," Nkurunziza said. "It will be a red line."

Political opponents merely see a newer and bolder attempt of Nkurunziza to remain in office beyond the democratic limits, two years after seeking and winning a controversial third presidential term.

"We do not need a lifetime president, but this is a man who just wants to instal a dictatorship in Burundi," says Jérémie Minani, an opposition figure who ran against Nkurunziza in 2015 and now lives in exile in Brussels.


"He claims that it's coming from the consultation made by the national commission but that commission is pretty much led by the regime," Minani continues. "The purpose of the commission is obviously to help this man remain in power for his entire life."

Turmoil in 2015

Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in 2015 plunged the country into months of demonstrations, police crackdowns, attacks, arrests and exiles of opposition figures.

As many as 2,000 people are estimated to have died in the turmoil and the International Criminal Court has begun looking into alleged crimes.