Burundi’s 2nd Vice President flees country, joins opposition Speaking from Brussels, Gervais Rufyikiri calls president's plan to seek third term in office 'illegal'

Gervais Rufyikiri - Second Vice-President of Burundi

Gervais Rufyikiri – Second Vice-President of Burundi

BUJUMBURA, Burundi – (AA) The second vice-president of Burundi announced late Wednesday that he had fled the country due to his unwillingness to support what he described as an “illegal” third term in office for President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Speaking from Brussels, Gervais Rufyikiri asserted: “I left Burundi because I was no longer able to support the attitude of the president of the republic [and] his desire to lead the people of Burundi on the path of constitutional illegality.”

According to Pacifique Nininahazwe, who has organized protests against Nkurunziza’s plan to run for a third term as president, Pie Ntavyohanyuma, president of the Burundian Assembly’s lower house, has also fled the country and joined the opposition.

“The second vice-president and the president of the lower house of the assembly will not return to Bujumbura soon,” Nininahazwe declared via Facebook.

He added: “They have fled Nkurunziza’s dictatorship.”

Government officials, for their part, derided the defections.

Speaking via Twitter, Willy Niamitwe, an advisor to Nkurunziza, declared: “Goodbye and good riddance, Rufyikiri.”

Niamitwe had earlier said the second vice-president had gone on “a working mission.”

The two officials were not the first to abandon Nkurunziza’s controversial administration.

Several other Burundian officials had earlier announced their defection, including Judge Sylvère Nimpagaritse, vice-president of Burundi’s constitutional court, who fled to Rwanda in May.

Presidential spokesman Leonidas Hatungimana, too, recently announced his defection from Tanzania, along with a handful of military officials, including Maj. Gen. Pontian Gaciyubwenge, a former national defense minister.

Since protests broke out in April against Nkurunziza’s plans to seek a third term in office, at least 70 people have been killed, 500 injured and some 1,000 detained, according to the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, a local NGO.

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