Three weeks of political unrest over a controversial decision by Pierre Nkurunziza to seek a third term in office has taken a direction, arguably, for worse. The situation was predictable as thousands started fleeing Burundi to seek refuge in neighbouring countries as early as late March.
More than 25,000 refugees had crossed into Rwanda by Monday. A similar estimate is said to be in DR Congo and Tanzania. In Bujumbura, weeks of protests showed no sign of ending, with the protesters saying President Nkurunziza had defiled the 2000 Arusha agreement that restored peace in Burundi.
In other words, all that the protesters and the thousands of others who have crossed the borders fleeing from alleged persecution at the hands of youth wingers allied to the President was for Nkurunziza’s name not to appear anywhere on the ballot paper come June 26.
There was no sign that Burundians would receive what they were agitating for. Things have since turned for the worse after premature celebrations on the streets of Bujumbura over the military announcement of a takeover of government were muted by dawn. Nkurunziza had just landed in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for an East African Community heads of state summit when news broke out that he had been ‘overthrown.’
Overnight, the ululations in the streets was overtaken by pops of gunfire as two rival army factions fought for control of the capital and strategic state installations.
There are indications the situation could get even worse.
This is not what the masses wanted. This is not what the thousands of women and children who ran away from their motherland to sleep in tents wish for Burundi. And this is not what the East African Community and the world want. We all want peace and tranquility and the constitutional hegemony to reign supreme.
The gun battles in Bujumbura must not be allowed to continue for longer than another day. The restoration of constitutional order, as called on by the EAC leaders on Wednesday, must prevail. This is the challenge all global players, not just the Burundians, must face up to.