Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a third term last Thursday, as critics continue to accuse him of hijacking democracy by breaking terms limits in the nation's constitution.
In taking the oath of office, Nkurunziza swore to uphold the constitution and defend the best interests of the Burundian nation. But the United States said it was an inauguration without a government that represents the population’s many political voices, and won’t resolve the political and security crisis in Burundi.
John Mbaku, professor of economics at Weber State University in Utah, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of many books on democracy and political transition in Africa, says Nkurunziza's inauguration for a third term leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
If he wants to rehabilitate himself, Mbaku says, there are a few steps he ought to take.
“Number one, he has to form a government of national unity — some government that represents all the factions within the country, not just members of his political party and ethnic group," he said. "The second thing he has to do is stop demonizing the opposition using his born-again status to condemn anybody who opposes him.”
Stephanie Schwartz, a consultant with the U.S. Institute for Peace, says “an inauguration doesn’t mean that the crisis is over."
"The state of affairs in term has not changed. They have been moving toward some sort of mediation process in July, but that has not really gone anywhere," she said. "This crisis will not be resolved without some sort of political dialogue.”
Without peace, says Mbaku, Nkurunziza will not be able to move the country forward, and therefore “needs to figure out a way to put together a constitution that’s relevant to the country’s history, realities and problems so they would have within the country a set of laws and institutions that can help the people of Burundi live together peacefully.”
He also needs to provide an environment that is conducive to investment, not only from outside entities but from local people so they can develop the country, Mbaku says.
Burundi has been plagued by violence since Nkurunziza announced his candidacy for a third term that many in Burundi and elsewhere insist is illegal. Burundi's constitutional court ruled he was eligible because he was first elected by parliament, not voters, in 2005.
The U.N. refugee agency says about 180,000 have recently fled the country. Nkurunziza has pleaded for their return. But Schwartz says it won’t be easy because migrant repatriation transcends humanitarian and logistical issues.
"Conflict at the local level in Burundi before the crisis has always been about issues between returnees and those who stayed," she said. "That’s still going to be a serious issue for Burundi as it continues to look to the future.”
A report published by Amnesty International accuses Burundian security agencies of detaining and torturing anti-government protesters.
Mbaku says one way to stop the violence in Burundi is for this president to assume this term in power is an interim government that will reconstruct the state and provide institutions that can move the country forward.
“If he genuinely does it, I think the international community, including the African Union, will support that kind of initiative.”