Burundi’s long-serving President Pierre Nkurunziza has promised to step down when his term ends in 2020, easing fears of fresh violence in the impoverished country.
Nkurunziza had been widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution to stand for two more terms - raising concerns that Burundi would see a repeat of the unrest that erupted after he stood for a third time in 2015.
But he told a ceremony on Thursday: “My term is ending in 2020.”
“This constitution was not modified for Pierre Nkurunziza as the country’s enemies have been saying. It was amended for the good and better future of Burundi and the Burundian people,” he said in the speech broadcast on state television, reports Reuters.
Opposition politicians who had accused him of trying to cling to power gave the statement a guarded welcome. “I think he just want(s) to calm internal public opinion and the international community,” Léonce Ngendakumana, the deputy chairman of the opposition FRODEBU group told Reuters.
The violence that erupted in 2015 shook a region still haunted by the 1994 genocide in Burundi’s neighbour Rwanda. Rwanda and Burundi have a similar ethnic mix.
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