On September 15, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Democracy. To mark this day, we asked Parliamentarians from both Europe and Africa the following question:
“What do you think the politician’s role is in strengthening the voice of the people in Africa, to establish and maintain a healthy democracy?”
“I think that the main role of a parliamentarian is to vote laws and ensure government oversight. Policies are initiated by the government or by the Parliament in view of ensuring the wellbeing of citizens. In Burundi, we make sure that laws are coherent with the programme of the political party who won the last elections. Thus, it is about honouring election promises and being responsive vis-a-vis citizens’ preoccupations.
Our role in controlling government action means that we are citizen’s eyes and the ears; we are Representatives of the People. In a young democracy like Burundi, a country just emerging from 30 years of single-party system, it is important we, the deputies, reflect on pluralism; because one can’t really talk about democracy while there’s a single-party state. Therefore, we play our role in democratically representing the people by the means of these two functions: voting laws and overseeing the executive branch.
The voice of the average citizen who elected us can be heard in many ways. Firstly, we [parliamentarians] make field visits on a regular basis. We cannot confine ourselves to the capital. We regularly leave the House and go to Burundi’s remote areas, to places where we have been voted for. In such a way, we are able to have face-to-face contact with our voters and hear what Burundian citizens think in their local context. In addition to these contacts, the House hosts regular debates in which parliamentarians orally ask questions to members of the government. Discussions and exchange of ideas with ministers represent an appropriate framework to voice the concerns of citizens. In this sense, we serve as conveyor belts for citizen’s concerns. That’s what safeguarding democracy is all about.”Aimé Nkurunziza
Member of the National Assembly of Burundi
Chairman of the Political Committee, Diplomatic Affairs and the East African Community
As told to Gérard Mfuranzima
Representative for AWEPA in Burundi
To read more about our International Day of Democracy special, please click here.