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Burundi: 'Constitution Should Be Amended for Power Separation, Sharing'

By Innocent Habonimana

Burundi political opposition and the international community have strongly opposed the amendment to the Constitution. They feared the amendment would suppress term limits.

The leadership of Parena political party founded by the late and Former Burundi President Jean Baptiste Bagaza calls for the amendment to the Constitution to ensure it reflects the Arusha Peace Agreement in regard to the separation of power and its sharing on ethnic basis.

In the celebration to mark the first anniversary of President Bagaza's death this Thursday 4 May, Zénon Nimubona, the Legal Representative of Parena, claims that Bagaza proposed "the political recognition of ethnic groups and sharing of power on the ethnic basis as a logical consequence of that recognition". He says the proposition was acclaimed by all stakeholders in the negotiations that were going on in Arusha in 1999. The power sharing between the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi was intended to prevent the discrimination or massacre based on ethnic belonging.

Parena says the Constitution that was supposed to be a copy of the Arusha Peace Agreement did not ensure the separation of power or its right sharing. As a consequence, the party argues, while vice-presidents have no real power, the legislative and the judiciary have no independence. What was supposed to be the sharing of power became the sharing of seats, alone.

Nimubona says this is proved by the fact that politicians who are in government institutions, like Agathon Rwasa, (the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament), have no power to do anything while their militants are persecuted. It is also the case that Hutus have the right to ask for clarification on the massacres of Hutus in 1972, while Tutsis who lost theirs in the incident don't have that right.

Bagaza founded Parena (Party for National Recovery) in 1994 to try and help Burundi recover from the crisis. The cause of the crisis was the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu who was the first democratically elected president. Bagaza's Parena was one of the important parties that represented Tutsis in Arusha negotiations. The talks resulted in a peace agreement that ended the decade long crisis in 2000.

Bagaza died in Brussels in 2016. Praises for his contributions to the national development as a president from 1976 to 198 came from all the spheres of Burundi society. He built roads, schools, electric dams, health centres, coffee washing stations and the like. He had come to power by a military coup and was deposed in another military coup by former President Pierre Buyoya.

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