- Princess Esther Kamatari, a former top model on Paris catwalks, is registered as the presidential candidate for the Party for the Restoration of Monarchy and Dialogue in Burundi (Abahuza). Elections are to be held during next month, according to the peace agreement for Burundi.
The monarchist Abahuza party only registered with Burundi's Interior Ministry last week but has already achieved wide national and international attention. Party leader is Prince Godefroid Kamatari, who is high up on the list of heirs to the Burundian throne. His close relative, Princess Esther, during the week was nominated the party's presidential candidate.
The main aim of the party is the restoration of Burundi's monarchy - which was abolished in 1966 - to restore peace and harmony in the small country. According to statements made by the party leader, "the monarchy lasted around 500 years in Burundi in a political environment of stability and cohabitation because the King was the symbol of national unity."
Prince Godefroid however emphasises that the Abahuza party does not seek a totalitarian monarchy as experienced in Swaziland, but rather a European constitutional monarchy model. The Prince names as examples the monarchies "in Belgium, the UK or Spain," which only is to be restored if the Burundian people agrees to this in a referendum.
To head the upcoming electoral campaign in Burundi, the monarchist party has chosen Princess Esther to run for presidency. Abroad, Ms Kamatari is most famous for her career as a top fashion model on Parisian catwalks, but also for her career as an author. Nevertheless, the ambitious 53-year-old Princess also can look back on a political career.
While living in Paris, Ms Kamatari in the 1990s headed the Association of the People of Burundi in France. From this position, she got engaged in relief work for the many children affected by Burundi's bloody civil war. According to her, this humanitarian work has made her relatively known among the poor masses in her home country.
While the Abahuza party last week was officially registered in Burundi, Princess Esther however still resides in Paris, where she has lived since father's assassination in 1964. While Burundians are to choose a new President and parliament next month, according to the national peace agreement, a date for the poll has yet to be set. Warfare is still ongoing outside the capital, Bujumbura. As soon as campaigning starts, however, the Princess is to head for Burundi.
Burundi's monarchy ended in tragedy during turmoil in 1964; four years after independence from Belgium. Historians, unlike Burundi's royalty, set the foundation year of the poorly centralised Kingdom at around 1680. With the establishment of a German protectorate in 1890, the Kingdom actually was strengthened.
The royal downfall started with the enthronement of four-year-old Mwami Mwambutsa IV in 1915, one year before the Belgian occupation of Burundi. During Belgian rule, ethnic division was fostered and the Hutu majority was promoted at the expense of the Tutsi royalty.
The republican revolution came shortly after Mwami Mwambutsa IV's death in July 1966. King Mwami Ntare V was dethroned in November the same year as Hutu nationalists took power. He was later killed in 1972. Tensions between Burundi's Hutus and Tutsis has led to waves of civil war ever since. According to Burundi's monarchists, the return of Kingdom will put an end to this.
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