Burundi president says God will defeat rebels
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza warned rebels Thursday that they would be crushed by God after being sworn in for a controversial third term following weeks of protests and a failed coup against him.
Nkurunziza thanked God for his win in elections last month — polls the United Nations say were not free or fair — after taking the oath of office in a surprise ceremony in the capital Bujumbura announced only hours before.
“The victory we have achieved is a victory of all Burundians, those who elected us, and those who did not,” Nkurunziza said.
The United States sharply criticized the inauguration, warning that political dialogue and international efforts to mediate it were key to bringing Burundi “back from the precipice.”
“Today’s inauguration in Burundi demonstrates the ruling party’s intent to ignore the voices of its people in pursuit of its own political agenda,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
Nkurunziza’s third term has been condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and pro- voked months of protests. There has been a string of killings since his re-election, including of his top security chief, assassinated in a rocket attack last month.
But Nkurunziza, an ex- rebel turned born-again Christian who believes he is in power by divine choice, warned those who have chosen “the path that leads nowhere, who attack and fight their country” will be stopped by the hand of God.
“They will be scattered like flour thrown into the air — as the God of heaven is a witness, the Burundians will be at peace,” he said.
No foreign head of state was present, but several African countries, as well as China and Russia, sent their ambassadors. European Union nations and the United States sent lower ranking officials.
In his oath, Nkurunziza swore loyalty to the constitution and “to dedicate all my forces to the defense of the best interests of the nation, to assure national unity and the cohesion of the Burundian people, social peace and justice.”
But Nkurunziza also said he would review possible changes to a key clause in the constitution — which requires ministers to come from a party with at least five percent of the national vote — to allow the formation of a unity government.
Amid opposition boycotts, some lawmakers are technically on independent lists, making them ineligible to join the government.
But the same constitutional article also enshrines a fundamental block of the deal that ended the 1993-2006 civil war, the strict ethnic quotas in power between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi.
Nkurunziza won over 69 percent of the vote in the disputed presidential poll last month, giving him a landslide first round victory.
But the United Nations observer mission said the vote last month was not “inclusive, free and credible” and was held “in an environment of profound mistrust” between political rivals.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term at a ceremony in the parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, Thursday, Aug. 20.