Burundi has named the small central city of Gitega the country’s new capital city.
The government “has just adopted an historic bill making Gitega the political capital and making Bujumbura the economic capital,” tweeted Jean-Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, spokesman for President Pierre Nkurunziza.
He said the Bujumbura, on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, would in future function solely as the country’s economic centre.
“Cabinet meetings will henceforth be held in Gitega, where five ministries will also be established from the start of 2019,” Ndenzako noted.
According to enca.com, Parliament which is dominated by the ruling party, must still approve the move.
In 2007, Nkurunziza had promised to change the capital, citing Gitega’s central position compared to Bujumbura, although the former’s population is barely 30,000 to Bujumbura’s 1.2 million.
The new choice was once the capital of the Burundian monarchy and the opposition accuse Nkurunziza of attempting a symbolic restoration. Bujumbura is today considered an opposition stronghold where the president spends less and less time.
According to critics, the more central location of Gitega is aimed at creating a buffer zone between Bujumbura and Nkurunziza, providing defensive spaces between him and his inner circle as well as suppressing potential movement to overthrow him.
A 2015 announcement by Nkurunziza that he wanted to stand for a third term sparked huge controversy.
He has been president since 2005.
Outbreaks of violence since then have cost at least 1,200 lives with more than 400,000 people displaced between April 2015 and May 2017, according to the International Criminal Court, which is investigating the unrest.
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