Hint of Political Thaw in Burundi as Veteran Critic Plans Party

(Bloomberg) -- A veteran opponent of Burundi’s government said he plans to form a new party to fight for law and democracy, an announcement broadcast on state television that hinted at a potential political thaw in the tightly controlled East African nation.

Agathon Rwasa, the vice president of Burundi’s parliament, told a late Wednesday meeting of more than 500 people of his plans for the so-called FNL Amizero y’Abarundi party, which would need government approval.

Political freedom has been one of the many casualties in a crisis that’s roiled Burundi and left hundreds of people dead since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would run for another term. Any political opening, however, would come as United Nations investigators warn that rights violations, including summary executions, are continuing. Nkurunziza has pledged to step down in 2020.

Rwasa, a former rebel leader, was the candidate for the Amizero y’Abarundi opposition coalition in the 2015 elections, winning 19 percent of the vote. Many of his supporters have since faced government pressure, with some fleeing the country.

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