04:56 am
27 October 2016

Burundi swears in new cabinet that some opponents condemn

NAIROBI (Reuters) – The new cabinet of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in on Tuesday with some members of the opposition, drawing criticism from other opponents who said the ministers had no legitimacy after disputed elections.

Burundi, a poor nation in the centre of Africa, has been in chaos since late April when Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, which opponents and Western powers said violated a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.

After months of protests that left dozens dead and prompted 180,000 people to flee the country, Nkurunziza was sworn in on Aug. 20 for another five-year term. His party also won a sweeping victory in a parliamentary election.

Presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho told reporters in Bujumbura that five of the 20 ministers were from the opposition Amizero y’Abarundi coalition, whose leader is former rebel leader and opposition leader Agathon Rwasa.

Rwasa, like other opponents, had said he was boycotting the polls although his name and those of other opponents had remained on ballot papers for the poll and some won seats.

Rwasa, who after the polls called for a government of national unity, angered other members of the opposition when he and his supporters took up seats in the assembly. He was made deputy speaker of parliament.

Charles Nditije, leader of a group that had been a junior partner in Rwasa’s coalition, condemned the new cabinet.

“We ask the Burundian people to resist, to say no to these illegal and anti-constitutional institutions,” he told Reuters.

Nditije did not outline any specific action but ruled out protests. “We will use other peaceful methods not necessarily protests that may claim lives of protesters. There are other safe and non violent methods we may resort to,” he said.

He called for African states and the international community to push for dialogue to form a transitional government that would lead to elections.

Ruling officials have previously ruled out any new elections before the end of the new five-year term. But a government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said new talks were possible.

“The government is not against dialogue respectful of the law. It’s up to the mediation to schedule them (talks) not the government,” he said.

Ministers from Rwasa’s coalition are not members of a recognised party, which should bar them from office according to constitutional rules. The presidential spokesman said the constitution would be amended to make it possible.