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Burundi’s president set to get title of ‘paramount leader’

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Burundi’s president could receive the title of “paramount leader” under draft legislation approved by the government as his troubled third term nears an end

KAMPALA, Uganda —
Burundi’s president could receive the title of “paramount leader” under draft legislation approved by the government Wednesday as his troubled third term nears an end.

Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, a spokesman for the presidency, tweeted that the Cabinet took the decision to make President Pierre Nkurunziza “Paramount Leader, Champion of Patriotism and Leadership Core.”

It was not immediately clear what being “paramount leader” might entail or what powers it might have for one of Africa’s most divisive leaders.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader who has led Burundi since 2005, threw the East African country into chaos in 2015 when he ran for a disputed third term that some called unconstitutional. As security forces fought protesters, hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring countries. Allegations of abuses led to Burundi exiting the International Criminal Court and kicking out the U.N. human rights office.

Nkurunziza has said he will not run again when his current term expires this year. But he reportedly faces pressure from supporters who want him to prolong his stay in power.

Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party will hold a conference Sunday to choose its candidate for the presidential election set for May. A military general who is a Nkurunziza ally is widely believed to be the front-runner.

Lofty titles have been given to Nkurunziza before. In 2018 the ruling party called him “the eternal supreme guide,” a description mocked by some of the president’s critics.

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