Burundi’s new president warns opposition parties

The new president of Burundi has warned opposition parties that they “would no longer get space” in the country, questioning “why should one oppose the government”.

Evariste Ndayishimiye made the statement at his lengthy inauguration speech on Thursday.

He also asked media and human rights activists to partner with the government to tackle national issues, otherwise “they will be working for others, not Burundians”.

However he also promised freedom of expression and protection of human rights.

“Everyone should be free to express ideas and challenges to the government. No-one should believe only politicians are able to,” he said.

Mr Ndaysihimiye added that Burundi wanted good neighbours.

For the last five years, his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza had fallen out with the northern neighbour, Paul Kagame of Rwanda – relations that negatively affected citizens of both nations.

“Differences between countries should not be solved by the size of power but with mutual respect discussions,” he said.

Thousands attended Mr Ndayishimiye’s inauguration at the stadium in the capital Gitenga, which also included prayers.

The fast-tracked ceremony comes after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died suddenly last week.

Mr Nkurunziza died aged 55 on 8 June after suffering a cardiac arrest, the government said. There are unconfirmed reports that he was suffering from Covid-19.

After 15 years in power, Mr Nkurunziza was due to step down in August.

Mr Ndayishimiye is a former rebel leader, like Mr Nkurunziza.

He was backed by his predecessor and was declared the winner of May’s presidential election, which the opposition said was rigged.

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