Burundi’s main opposition leader announces election bid

KIGALI, Rwanda 

Burundi’s main opposition leader on Sunday confirmed his party’s bid for the 2020 general elections and refuted speculation that he was going into exile amid government intimidation of opposition party members and supporters.

“Are you asking if I’m going into exile or going to hide? No I’m not. Go tell them there is no question of going into exile, there is no question of going into hiding. What we’re doing is preparing for 2020,” Agathon Rwasa, president of the National Freedom Council (CNL), told journalists in Bujumbura.

Rwasa denounced schemes aimed at “getting rid” of his party ahead of the 2020 polls and called on its activists “not to give up in the face of the difficult situation facing the party.”

“The goal of these arrangements is to get rid of the CNL, to try to hurt Rwasa, to disband the CNL, to ensure the CNL’s rivals cruise through the upcoming elections,” he said.

Burundi will go to the polls to elect the president, MPs and members of the communal councils on May 20, 2020, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Election campaigning is scheduled to begin on April 27, 2020 and end on May 17.

“Come rain or snow, we will continue our struggle until we take power. We owe it to the Burundians who are waiting for change,” Rwasa said.

Regarding the numerous arrests of activists from his party, he expressed determination.

“They will not be able to put us all behind bars…We will always stand,” he said.

Rwasa said his party is committed to preaching political tolerance and called on administrators in municipalities to respect the rights and freedoms of citizens.

He was referring to incidents of violence in Gashikanwa municipality, where local administrators held a public meeting on security in October and then reportedly went after residents who had snubbed the meeting.

“It is regrettable to see how so many administrative staff trample on the rights and freedoms of citizens without being prosecuted or at least called to order,” he said.

According to Human Rights Watch, intimidation of suspected opposition supporters has been rife in Burundi, and the abuses have increased since the CNL was registered in February and a constitutional referendum that extended the length of presidential terms to seven years was approved in May 2018.

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