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Law Society: Alleged Burundi Government Overthrow ‘Unfortunate’

  • Peter Clottey

A female protester holds an ax during a protest against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 13, 2015.

A female protester holds an ax during a protest against Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 13, 2015.

The president of the East Africa Law Society (EALS) has called for the deployment of international peacekeepers to stabilize the situation in Burundi due to unrest in the East African nation. This, after General Godefroid Niyombare announced he had ousted Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Nkurunziza attended a regional heads of state summit in neighboring Tanzania Wednesday about how to resolve the country's political crisis. The Summit is reported to have been cancelled.

Nkurunziza reportedly left Dar es Salaam with the intent of returning to Bujumbura, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

EALS president James Mwamu says East African regional leaders and the African Union should come up with a quick solution to resolve the unrest. He said the leaders should organize a snap election but prevent incumbent President Nkurunziza from participating in the poll in accordance with Burundi’s constitution.

African heads of state have recently proposed protocols that say the unconstitutional overthrow of governments should not be allowed on the continent.

“The alleged coup in Burundi is very unfortunate. We must condemn the coup d'état because I don’t think a coup detat is a way of trying to sort out issues… Because Burundi is a very complex country [and] the historical fight between the Tutsis and the Hutus is so complex that even a military coup d'état cannot be able to resolve the issue,” said Mwamu.

“Efforts must be given to the interventions by the heads of state of the East African Community, which is coming very little and very late, because this thing has been going on for a very long time.”

Mwamu praised the chairman of the East African Community, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, for sharply condemning the alleged overthrow of Nkurunziza’s government. He, however, said the East African leaders should have been proactive to resolve the brewing tension in Burundi after Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term.

Mwamu also said the situation caught East African leaders off guard, saying they were busy implementing an integration plan for the region in spite of the simmering tension in Burundi. He said the EALS expressed concern about gross human rights abuses in Burundi, but had no support from the East African leaders.

“Right now they should call for the immediate cessation of hostilities, ask the army to go back to the barracks and possibly find an East African or African mechanism composed of very senior leaders to organize elections for Burundi,” said Mwamu.

“But for those elections these leaders must make it very clear, Nkurunziza must not be among the candidates since he is one of the people who precipitated the problem. The African and East African leaders must be firm: one must not allow this coup to go on and secondly, and they must not also leave Burundi as it is.”

A constitutional court recently cleared Nkurunziza to seek a third term. But Mwamu said there appears to be no judicial independence in Burundi. He called for a constitutional amendment to strengthen the independence of the country’s judiciary.

“There is no clear separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary,” said Mwamu.“One of the things that we have fought in the past is the control of both the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Burundi by the government of Burundi. Because you see, if you find the president is the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, the minister for Justice is the secretary of that commission.”

“You therefore know that the appointees that sit in that particular court are appointees of the president so that there is no separation of powers. They were basically endorsing what the government had decided. I don’t think it was an independent decision,” he added.

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