Why Nkurunziza kept rest of EAC at arms length

Pierre Nkurunziza boycotted EAC summit meetings and withheld annual remittance. PHOTO | COURTESY

The late Pierre Nkurunziza in his last term deliberately sabotaged the operations of the East African Community through boycotting summit meetings and withholding annual remittance.

After the failed coup in May 2015, Nkurunziza believed the rest of the EAC leaders were out to isolate Burundi and dictate how the country was managed.

Targeted killings and torture of citizens were reported in the country leading to not only his isolation him from other regional leaders but also attracted international sanctions from the European Union that crippled the economy of the country.

Nicodemus Minde, a Tanzanian political commentator, said it was Nkurunziza who felt isolated, not necessarily the country or Burundians, because he was bruised by the failed coup of 2015 that took place while he was attending an EAC summit in Tanzania.

When Nkurunziza was elected by parliament in 2005 as part of The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, 2000, it was a major step towards peace for a country that had experienced civil war for 12 years.

The agreement commonly known as Arusha Accord set out the modalities for power sharing between Hutus, Tutsi and Twa ethnic groups to ensure that no community was over represented in government, and the country’s leadership was to be rotational.

However, after his re-election in 2010, Nkurunziza started dismantling the Arusha Accord to ensure that his CNDD-FDD remained in power and dominated other parties.

By February 2014, coalition partners in the power sharing mechanism that had been in place since 2005, resigned and since then, the CNDD-FDD has been effectively governing the country on its own.

Regionally, he will be remembered as a leader who almost crippled the EAC operations through boycott of the summit and failure to pay Burundi’s annual contributions based on his personal differences with Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Nkurunziza made it difficult for the EAC Council of Ministers to work, and torpedoed the Head of States Summit, while at the same time demanding Burundi’s share of the seats in the Community.

For example, in November 2018, the then EAC chair, Yoweri Museveni was forced to call off the 20th Ordinary Meeting of the EAC Head of States after Burundi boycotted, citing the community’s interference in the internal affairs of the country.

Determined to hold on to power by any means, Nkurunziza pitted the EAC, AU and UN against one another, and resisted all external pressure resulting in the deterioration of Burundi’s image and relationship with key donors.