Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Presidential Termlimit & Burundi's Constitution

On thursday Paul Seger, the President of the Peacebuilding Committee for Burundi of
the United Nations, said that the third term which Pierre Nkurunziza wants is in the first place a concern between the people of Burundi. The concern of the United Nations, according to Paul Seger, is that Burundi will remain at peace. 

Does the constitution of Burundi give room for a third Nkurunziza term? Let's read article 96 of the Burundi constitution:
The President of the Republic is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years renewable one time."

It comes close to what US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Russ Feingold, said at the end of 2014(at 35:10:
"We indicated the United States position that the Arusha Accords were unambiguous in its intent, that this be two terms for one person. And we urge that the presidential election be consistent with the spirit of the Arusha Accords. The Arusha Accords have been the foundation of a decade long period of relative peace and stability in burundi. We do acknowledge that there is a constit provision that could possibly be interpreted  to permit a third term for the current president but our view is that would run counter to the language of the Arusha Accords which states quote 'that no one may serve more than two presidential terms' unquote. So the goal here is to not (sort of) get into some sort of legal debate but get to the bottom line, which is that stability and good governance will effect international perceptions and investors confidence in burundi. And so the spirit of Arusha needs to be followed in order to have that kind of benefit for burundi. And that we  still think that the Arusha Accords remain key to maintaining a still fragile stability in Burundi in the near term."

Stef Vandeginste at the University of Antwerp thinks it is very unlikely that the CENI will reject Nkurunziza's candidacy before the elections. This would mean that the constitutional court would only deal with the question after the elections. The Burundi constitution says however in article 95 that the President:
"is the guarantor of the national independence, of the integrity of the territory and of the respect for the international treaties and agreements"
After talks in Bujumbura with Ban Ki-Moon, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza wrote on his website that he will organize elections:

 'in strict compliance with the Constitution and the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.'  
This can only be interpreted as a confirmation that Pierre Nkurunziza sees himself as the guarantor of the respect for the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in conformity or at least analogical to what is stated in article 95 of the constitution.
On the executive branch of government the Arusha Agreement says in Article 7.3:
"She/he shall be elected for a term of five years, renewable only once. No one may serve more than two presidential terms."
In other words, the constitutional question might no longer be limited to an interpretation of article 96 of the constitution. Vandeginste does not discuss the articles 95 and 96 of the constitution, or the legality of a third term, but even if the constitutional court would not rule before the election, President Pierre Nkurunziza himself can't escape his responsibility of guaranteeing strict compliance to the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement. As stated by the parties to the Arusha peace and reconciliation agreement:
 "stability, justice, the rule of law, national reconciliation, unity and development are the major aspirations of the people of burundi."
Or as the Chairman of the EAC, President Kikwete of Tanzania, recently said in his State of the EAC speech in Bujumbura:
“I appeal to the citizens of the country to adhere to the constitution of Burundi, the electoral laws and the Arusha Accord”


mark lawrence said...

Thanks mate. I will be there for this meetup. I think thought I know where this conference room is but will search online before I plan to commute. Quite new to this place and not sure about exact location.

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