Gitega — Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza on Sunday picked secretary general for the ruling party National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) as his successor and the party’s candidate for the presidential election set for May 20.
The East African nation experienced political violence in 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in an election that year.
His opponents said the third term was unconstitutional. During the third term violence, at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced.
His successor, Evariste Ndayishimiye, 52, is former interior minister and military assistant to the president and described as Nkurunziza loyalist even during civil war in the 1990s.
Ndayishimiye who fought alongside President Nkurunziza during the civil war in 1990s in which 300,000 Burundians died has played a centre role in the government, observers say.
In his speech before the candidate was announced, Nkurunziza said his government is now on the democratic path, practicing clean politics.
“We have achieved a lot. God is our witness,” Nkurunziza told party members including foreign dignitaries from Gitega, the country’s new capital.
The appointment of his successor comes days after parliament passed draft legislation yet to be approved by cabinet that gives Nkurunziza a retirement package worth one billion Burundian francs and building him a villa.
The parliament is also preparing to confer to him the title of “paramount leader”. In 2018 the ruling party called him “the eternal supreme guide.”
David Gakunzi, a Burundian political analyst said Ndayishimiye said the new leader has to embark on the journey of reconciliation and seek dialogue with members of the opposition and armed groups.
“There is no way he can rule without engaging people who oppose Nkurunziza. That will be the starting point,” said Gakunzi