Burundi’s president announced on Thursday that he would not run for another term, even as he put in place a new Constitution that would theoretically allow him to stay in power until 2034.
The president, Pierre Nkurunziza, told supporters, “I will support the new president who will be elected in 2020,” adding that “a man can change his position in the bed but he cannot change his word.”
Deadly violence and a failed coup attempt followed Mr. Nkurunziza’s decision in 2015 to pursue a third term, which critics called unconstitutional. More than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands fled Burundi, and last year, International Criminal Court judges authorized an investigation into allegations of state-sponsored crimes.
More than 73 percent of voters in a referendum last month approved changes to the Constitution, which had been promoted by Mr. Nkurunziza and which extended the length of the president’s term from five years to seven. And it would potentially allow the 54-year-old Mr. Nkurunziza, who has been in power in the East African country since 2005, to stand for two seven-year terms after his current five-year one expires in 2020.
Burundi’s previous Constitution allowed presidents to be re-elected only once; in 2015, Mr. Nkurunziza argued that he was entitled to stand for a third term because he had not been directly elected for his first.
Opposition activists called the referendum another effort by the president to cling to power. They have also alleged intimidation and harassment of those who did not support the amendments, including threats of drowning and castration. A presidential decree criminalized calls to abstain from voting, with a penalty of up to three years in jail.
The government has rejected the allegations of abuse, calling the claims propaganda by exiles.
New York Times