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Africa

Sitting president set for second term by default

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-06-28

The sole candidate in Burundi's presidential poll, incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza has a personal history intimately tied to the country's devastating 13-year civil war, a passion for sport and Jesus, and a unique conception of his presidential duties.

Voters in Burundi did not have difficulty choosing their next head of state in Sunday’s presidential poll: current president Pierre Nkurunziza was the only candidate on the ballot papers.
 
A huge football fan, Nkurunziza, 45, would undoubtedly baulk at the idea of walking onto a pitch without a rival to take on. But in the political arena, the incumbent is willing to compete alone.
 
A few weeks before the election kicked off, five of the six parties that had previously indicated they would contest the presidential election said they would boycott it.
 
By the close of nominations on June 7, the electoral commission had only received Nkurunziza's candidacy, indicating that Yves Sahinguvu of the Union for National Progress party (UPRONA) had also withdrawn.
 
With re-election a foregone conclusion, Nkurunziza will shoulder the burden of ensuring security in Burundi, just four years after the end of the 1993-2006 civil war that claimed some 300,000 lives. A negotiated peace deal remains fragile, as a recent resurgence of violence proves.

In the week leading up to Sunday's poll, 30 grenade attacks were reported across the country. Observers say the acts of violence are primarily intended to disrupt the presidential election. Six members of the opposition were arrested by police and charged with “sabotage”.

War and politics
 
Nkurunziza’s father, Eustache Ngabisha, a member of the Parliament of Burundi and a provincial governor, was killed in 1972 during a period of deadly ethnic clashes.

While harbouring ambitions of becoming an economist, restrictions against Hutus forced
Nkurunziza to choose a career in physical education. He become a professor at the University of Burundi in 1991.

The one-time insurgent entered the civil war in 1995, joining the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD). He rose up the ranks of the organization, ultimately becoming its chairman.

In his capacity as CNDD-FDD chief, he led his group in peace negotiations with the government. His leadership of the CNDD-FDD was cemented in 2004 when the group was officially registered as a political party.

He became president of Burundi in August 2005, unopposed by members of parliament that were acting as an electoral college.
 
Sport and Jesus

The Burundian president professes to have two great loves: sport and Jesus. It is not uncommon to see Nkurunziza bicycling across the country or kicking around a football, sporting the jersey of his favourite team, Haleluya FC.

Nkurunziza attributes his recovery from a gunshot wound at the height of the civil war to God’s saving power. He now describes himself as a born-again Christian, and believes that his presidential duties include organising major "religious crusades" throughout Burundi. These events include his own preaching, singing and dancing, as well as regular feet-washing to emulate the example of Jesus.
 
The events also include giveaways that political opponents label as utter populism. To his credit, Nkurunziza has established free primary schools and medical coverage for pregnant mothers. However, his detractors point to the 2009 UN Human Development Index, which ranks Burundi 168 out of 177 countries in the world.

Date created : 2010-06-28

  • BURUNDI

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