Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza will have a special status in society with title of “Guide du Patriotisme” (loosely as Patriotism Guide), along with other benefits to be given to him and some former leaders.
Parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved a special law that puts Nkurunziza in his own special status, as the country prepares for presidential polls later this year.
Below Nkurunziza will be a category of former Burundian Presidents who came to power through election. They are Nkurunziza and Melchior Ndadaye who won landmark elections in 1993, but was ousted and assassinated three months later in coup.
Under the new law, Nkurunziza and Ndadaye’s family will get 1billion Burundian Francs or $555,000 ($1 = 1,800 Fbu). It will be a one-off payment. They will also have a villa built by the state at any location of their choosing within Burundi.
The other six former presidents will get nothing because they were not elected. They include Major Pierre Buyoba who ruled Burundi twice from coups from 1987 to 1993 and from 1996 to 2003. He is currently African Union High Representative for Mali and the Sahel.
The other former leaders who will not get anything are Gen Michel Micombero (1966-76), Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (1976-86), Cyprien Ntaryamira (led for two months until his death together with Rwanda’s Juvenal Habyarimana in plane on April 6, 1994), Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (April 1994-1996), and Domitien Ndayizeye (2003-2005).
However, under existing constitution, all former Presidents automatically become senators for life. They also enjoy other benefits.
Since last year, a series of behind-the-scene actions are being undertaken including changing laws that create all the necessary comfort for President Nkurunziza who has been in power since 2005 and later elected. He is due to step down this year, and has publicly indicated he is retiring.
He has been engaged in geopolitical fight with Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, since 2015 with each side accusing the other of sponsoring the other’s rebels. There are over 80,000 Burundian refugees in Rwanda, and many others across region.
This Wednesday, President Nkurunziza and his cabinet are meeting to put final seal on the new legal regime protecting Nkurunziza.
But even before the ink dries, opposition and exiled critics are up in arms accusing Nkurunziza of eroding the Arusha Accord, a peace settlement in 2005 that among other things divides up Burundi’s political-social-economic set up along ethnic lines.
The ruling CNDD-FDD party top political organ meets this Sunday, at a Congress where Nkurunziza’s successor is expected to be elected. No obvious names have been put forward, suggesting Nkurunziza’s choice could be a huge surprise.
By virtual of Nkurunziza having special status as outlined in the new law, and having control over the ruling party from afar, he will be Burundi’s defacto ruler for many years to come.