By Millicent Zighe
Opposition party National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement (CNARED) party has announced plans to take part in next years’ elections.
The alliance, which is made up of opposition members in exile, reached the decision after convening a meeting with its members early August. “We are preparing our return to participate in the 2020 election. Ten million Burundians who are in the country, expect change that we cannot make being abroad. Hence the need for us to go back home,” CNARED’s Executive Secretary Anicet Niyonkuru said.
Following the news, Burundi’s First Vice President Gaston Sindimwo said the government was ready to welcome the opposition back into the country. “If they want to get power, why are they outside the country? They should come and play the politics on the ground,” Sindimwo remarked.
Launched three years ago, the party has suffered successive membership losses amid leadership wrangles. Social media outbursts by defector members have given the party negative publicity, hence losing support. As of now, some Burundians think the party will crumble before the highly anticipated elections.
CNARED spokesperson accused defector members of using underhand tactics to weaken the party. “This group wants to form an independent party but finds that it will be difficult for it to break through as long as CNARED exists, hence the strategy of quitting the group one by one” said Onesime Ndiwumana.
Additionally, Ndiwumana said that party members met in Nairobi in January and agreed to sort out their differences and unite. However, some party leaders claimed that there were not consulted prior to holding the meeting.
CNARED was mainly formed to oversee the implementation of Arusha treaty that ended the civil war. Some members feel the party has deviated from its main objective resulting in their dissatisfaction.
Burundi political crisis in April 2015 resulted in killings, torture and outflow of refugees. Following President Pierre Nkurunzinza’s controversial win, CNARED members have openly expressed concerns over his presidency.
In the past, the East African Community has unsuccessfully tried to establish dialogue between the ruling regime and the party. CNARED members were adamant about not participating in the talks, citing distrust with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa’s leadership ultimately resulting in them pulling out of the Arusha process. The party further accused Mkapa of siding with President Nkurunzinza and helping legitimize his presidency.
Charles Nditije former CNARED member, accused some members of the party of having put their needs before that of Burundians who have suffered abuses in form of murder, torture and arrest under Nkurunzinza.
He further said the upcoming elections are based on the 2018 Constitution and not the Arusha agreement hence why he disputed CNARED participation in next year’s poll.
Like many, Nditije thinks Burundi is not ready to hold a free and fair election due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.