We will swallow our dark past and take off - Ndayishimiye

The new leader told supporters he would do everything possible to address the causes of conflict in the small country

In Summary

• During the final CNDD FDD party campaign on May 16, Ndayishimiye, also known as “Neva”, said the country could expect big changes if he won.

• He called on the need for the country “to take off”, but for that, he said many things needed to happen. 

Évariste Ndayishimiye during the campaign trail
Évariste Ndayishimiye during the campaign trail
Image: FILE

Outgoing Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza this week congratulated his party's candidate Major General Évariste Ndayishimiye who won the May 20 presidential election.

Ndayishimiye is taking over a deeply divided country.

"We will swallow our dark past which does not deserve to be our prison," he said at a campaign rally outside Bujumbura.

He said he would do everything possible to resolve the causes of conflict that afflict the small East African country. 

How does the 52-year-old Catholic, who presents himself as the servant of the people, plan to do this?

During the final CNDD FDD party campaign on May 16, Ndayishimiye, also known as “Neva”, said the country must "take off" but only change would make it possible.

Security, Ndayishimiye said, would be a government priority to protect Burundians and the country’s borders. As a former Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, he said he would modernise the army by building the capacity of the Burundi National Defence Forces and the national police.

This strengthening would help protect the country, dealing with disasters, and participating in peace operations, if BNDF/BNP are called to serve.

As of December 2018, Burundi had 5,400 troops in the African Union Mission to Somalia, although the AU had asked the country to drawback 1,000 soldiers as part of a gradual disengagement.

Ndayishimiye appealed to the refugees who fled Burundi to return home because the country needed all its sons and daughters to rebuild the shattered economy. He promised to put in place a task force to engage refugees in neighbouring countries, Europe, America and elsewhere to return home.

He also promised to focus on internally displaced people, build villages that would provide better housing and facilitate basic services.

The fight against impunity was also a recurrent campaign theme. Ndayishimiye said impunity has been a cancer since the country gained independence in 1962.

Earlier he had emphaised, “If a member of the CNDD-FDD commits a crime, he is a criminal and not a member of the CNDD-FDD. If  if a Hutu or a Tutsi commits a crime, they are criminals and do not speak for their respective ethnic groups.”

In addition, he said he would continue to support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s to unite Burundians.


He also mentioned inclusivity in the many provinces he visited. He asked Burundians to see themselves not as ethnic Hutus, Tutsi or Twa but as Barundi, and that his administration would ensure they were all represented. He said inclusivity also meant the rights of women and girls are protected; youth are given chance and the elderly are cared for.

This was an important message for a country where the marginalisation of communities depending on who was in power was the norm rather than the exception. 

Ndayishimiye’s referred to himself as the “ commander-in-chief of development,  who would organise battalions to fight against poverty".

With a gross national income per capita of just $686, Burundi is the second poorest country in Africa and the world

The President-elect said it was essential to invest in modernising agriculture so Burundians can feed themselves and add value to products for export.

He promised to support cooperatives and the equal distribution of resources to all provinces and unveil a new scheme on retirement. He said it was deplorable that retirements were not properly planned and retirement was often a painful experience for Burundi's civil servants.

The retired general also called for more investment in the education sector "so the country can produce a workforce ready for today’s job market". He insisted on scientific research and the need to train students to be job creators, not job seekers. He talked about the need to look into new technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence to transform the country's economy.

Another recurrent theme was the need to upgrade the country’s poor infrastructure, particularly in the health sector and roads. He promised that if elected, a new airport will be built and that tourism will be given the attention it "rightfully deserves". 

Despite the potential — fourth among the five products that ensure economic growth — Burundi’s tourism sector has been crippled by limited resources and political crises. Hotel owners have been closing down, with a sizable number moving to Kigali, Rwanda.


The protection of the environment, he said, would also a priority and he urged Burundians to continue planting trees in the programme “Ewe Burundi Urambaye” (A Well-Dressed Burundi Covered with Trees), a national reforestation project. Ndayishimiye also said he would mobilise partners to support “green jobs”.

On his foreign policy, he said that Panafricanism, solidarity and the dream to see regional integration become a reality would drive Burundi’s international relations. He stressed that Burundi will seek a relationship based on "mutual respect, mutual accountability, strategic dialogue and demand-driven support".

He said that Burundi will continue to respect its international obligations and his foreign policy will be aligned with the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Burundi has denied UN accusations of severe human rights violations, saying it is a target of an international conspiracy.

As he concluded his remarks, he repeated the theme of his campaign “Turikumwe Twese Birashoboka!” ( ith all of us together, It is possible!)

Now that he won the seat, Burundians are waiting to see if he will be the agent change he promised.