Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza performed another infamous African presidential miracle. He won re-election the gargantuan way.
A day after polls closed on Monday, electoral commission head, Mr Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, announced a 91.62 per cent of “We-love-you” mandated him to propel Burundi to his version of a lovely perpetuity. Mr Ndayicariye said the turnout was 76.98.
Burundi has about 3.5 million registered voters in a population of at least 9.5 million. With nearly a half under 14, the president must have kissed many babies to earn the gargantuan popularity.
To his credit, Mr Nkurunziza allowed 12 opposition parties to campaign for a boycott. This wasn’t so with the other member of a recent African club of sole presidential candidates, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. He pulverized the opposition and called himself a democrat. International observers rewarded the Burundian.
Ms Renate Weber of the EU observer team, for example, said Burundians “…were able to exercise their right to vote” but lamented the absence of multi-party competition.
The opposition boycotted the elections because of alleged intimidation and fraud in May district elections. Then foreign observers, while admitting irregularities, denied fraud.
Politicians normally complain about malpractice during the campaign and ballot counting. Burundi’s opposition “discovered” these after the results were announced. That makes a wobbly case. Worse, the opposition chose a cowardly tactic, a boycott of the polls.
Mr Charles Petrie, the representative of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, must rue the day he reassured the Security Council in May. Burundi, he said, was “set to give an extraordinary example of political maturity.”
Such optimist is excusable. Burundi, where killing nearly became a national pastime after Tutsi military officers assassinated the country’s first Hutu president, Mr Melchior Ndadaye, has come a long way. Twelve years of bloodletting left an estimated 300,000 dead.
International plodding and mediation paid off and in May 2008, the last rebel group lay down arms.
Other than Mr Nkurunziza’s victory, Mr Athagon Rwasa, leader of the last rebel group to lay down arms two years ago, dominated headlines. He reportedly fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a recorded tape to a Burundian radio station on Wednesday, he claimed his life was in danger.
Were that so, Mr Rwasa would have fled to any of the East African Community member states. By fleeing to eastern DRC, lawless at the best of times, Mr Rwasa gave the impression of sinister motives.
Part of the problem with Burundi’s current tension is the electoral mechanism. Holding four elections—local, presidential, legislative, and senatorial—in five months allows politicians to flip flop. In Burundi, that translates into more ethnic and clan turmoil. The other problem is a House of Babel-type political elite. A proliferation of political parties illustrates.
Ironically, Mr Rwasa prescribed the best medicine for the country. Acknowledging the situation wasn’t to everyone’s liking, he said, “I am sure we can fix this together.” If Mr Nkurunziza doesn’t make that a priority, then his gargantuan victory will remain unredeemable.