Burundi’s president will provoke more protests if he announces plans this month to seek a third five-year term and the poor African nation risks being dragged back into a cycle of unrest, a rebel-turned-politician said. Agathon Rwasa, a presidential hopeful who in 2009 was the last rebel commander to lay down weapons, told Reuters he would call for peaceful protests if Pierre Nkurunziza chose to run, a move opponents say would violate the constitution and the Arusha deal that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. Nkurunziza has yet to state his intentions, but supporters argue he can and should run in the June presidential vote. Diplomats expect him to declare this month before a May deadline to register. Some opponents have already held small protests.
“The constitution gives us the right to protest,” Rwasa, now a leading opposition voice, said on Sunday from Burundi. He pledged to battle the president and his CNDD-FDD party at the ballot box and not by taking up arms. “We don’t want any struggle any more in this country.”
But he added the Imbonerakure youth wing of the ruling party was stashing weapons and “terrorising the people” in some areas, driving thousands of people to flee in fear to next door Rwanda.
“What is it (the weaponry) aimed for if not violence?” he said.