Burundi’s ruling party picks general as presidential hopeful

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — Burundi’s ruling party has chosen an army general to be its candidate in the presidential election set for May, signalling that the country’s president will now retire after serving three terms.

General Evariste Ndayishimiye was chosen last Sunday during a national conference for the ruling CNDD-FDD party in the rural province of Gitega.

The move means President Pierre Nkurunziza will retire after presiding over a disputed third term that sparked violence and forced hundreds of thousands to flee the tiny central African country.

Ndayishimiye, a Nkurunziza ally, has been serving as the ruling party’s secretary-general. Years ago he dropped out of university to become a rebel fighting alongside Nkurunziza in Burundi’s civil war.

A Burundian author and political analyst David Gakunzi described Ndayishimiye as unpredictable.

“For instance, he initially opposed Nkurunziza’s third term but later changed his mind and embraced the president,” Gakunzi said.

Nkurunziza rose to power in 2005 following the signing of the Arusha accords ending a 13-year civil war that killed about 300,000 people. He was re-elected unopposed in 2010 after the opposition boycotted the vote. He then claimed he was eligible for a third term in 2015 because lawmakers, not the general population, had chosen him for his first term — a move that critics called unconstitutional.

Nkurunziza’s influence could still linger after the election, since he could receive the title of “paramount leader” under draft legislation approved by the government last week.