Gaston Sindimwo, the Secretary General of the Union for National Progress (UPRONA) – the main ally of the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) – has escaped a close call on his life after a grenade attack on his home at midnight between Sunday March 16th, and Monday March 17th.
According to reports, two grenades were hurled at Sindimwo in his home in Bujumbura by unknown attackers as the politician disembarked from his car.
Luckily, Sindimwo escaped with minor wounds. However, reports indicate that his security guard was seriously injured.
The attack symbolises the tension that has gripped the political scene in Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza unveiled plans of making constitutional changes two years ago.
Pundits say this is the worst political crisis the country has experienced since the end of the civil war between its two main ethnic groups in 2000.
The proposed constitutional amendments, which includes some adjustments to the structure of the executive arm of the Burundian government, has been described as a ploy by President Nkurunziza to tighten his grip on the presidency.
Critics have also warned that the president’s bid to run for a third term in 2015 could potentially drag the nation into another civil war.
During Burundi’s 2010 elections, virtually all the opposition groups in the country boycotted the polls before uniting under a coalition called the Alliance of Democrats for Change (ADC).
However, just one party, the Union for National Progress (UPRONA), opted to take part in the legislative elections, after boycotting the councillors and presidential polls.
Despite their differences, the alliance between UPRONA and the ruling CNDD-FDD has coursed on smoothly until now.
President Nkurunziza’s dismissal of the UPRONA-linked vice president Bernard Busokoza, which eventually promoted three ministers to resign in protest severely tested the alliance.
But observers say it was the side-lining of Charles Nditije and the nomination of Bonaventure Niyoyankana as the head of UPRONA by the government that really sent fireworks sparking from the growing rift between the two parties.
This eventually resulted in a split of UPRONA, with one faction alleging that the ruling CNDD-FDD is attempting to infiltrate it, while the other faction – which is still working with the government – says these fears are overblown.
Nonetheless, the two splinter factions seem to be growing further apart.
Sindimwo has connected the recent assassination attempt to the conflict within his party. According to him, “I’m sure that this attack is linked to the split in UPRONA, and that it was carried out on the orders of my political rivals.”
“It’s clear that they tried to eliminate me in cold blood,” he noted.
But the other UPRONA faction has denied involvement in the attack on Sindimwo’s life.
The spokesman for the other faction of the party, Tatien Sibomana, has told the press that killing isn’t part of his party’s “methods.”
According to him, “it wouldn’t advance our cause because if we did kill someone, CNDD-FDD would replace them immediately.”
Many observers have noted that the recent disputes in Burundi is threatening to unsettle the rather shaky power sharing agreement between the Hutus (associated with the ruling CNDD-FDD) and the Tutsis (associated with UPRONA) – with the ever-present threat of a civil war looming over the nation.
Meanwhile, the United Nations, the government of the United States of America as well as the French government have cautioned Burundian politicians to avoid dragging the country into another prolonged armed conflict as the nation approaches one of the most important elections in its history.
Photo by Iwacu-Burundi: Gaston Sindimwo.