Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD on Sunday announced Nkurunziza — who critics claim is trying to lock in power for life — would be known as “Imboneza yamaho”, which the press translated as “eternal supreme guide”, while some officials spoke of “permanent guide”.
The party’s secretary general Evariste Ndayishimiye convened a press conference on Tuesday to address the issue of the translation of the president’s title.
“After going over the immense works realised by his excellency the president of the republic, the value of his ideas, his teachings, advice and acts, (the party) found him to be an excellent charismatic leader and decided to raise him to the status of Visionary of the CNDD-FDD,” he said.
Critics decry a cult of personality that has developed around Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005.
The tiny central African state was plunged into political crisis in April 2015 when Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term which he went on to win.
Post-election violence claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation.
A constitutional referendum in May could allow Nkurunziza to run in elections in 2020, paving the way for him to remain in power until 2034.
In July last year the International Federation for Human Rights slammed his “increasingly violent dictatorial regime”.
It said the ruling CNDD-FDD has become the sole state party, with monuments glorifying it erected, party flags placed at entrances to public schools and violent propaganda broadcast urging Burundians to be ready to fight and eliminate opponents.
Ndayishimiye also announced a party decision that, every Thursday, all supporters were to devote the day to “prayer, god, and fasting”.
“This is a sign that President Pierre Nkurunziza is the uncontested master of the CNDD-FDD because he has always devoted Thursdays to prayer and fasting. The whole party now has to do as he does,” a high-ranking party member said on condition of anonymity.