Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa
Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa speaks during an interview in the capital Bujumbura, July 22, 2015.Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Agathon Rwasa, leader of Burundi's main opposition party National Liberation Forces (FNL), and a staunch critic of the newly re-elected National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), has joined the country's government as deputy speaker of parliament on 30 July. The apparent about-face has outraged his supporters who have accused him of "messing up the struggle".

Opposition leader, Charles Nditije of the Union for National Progress (UPRONA) labelled the move a betrayal of people who died in protests prior to the election. Rwasa boycotted the 21 July election calling it "a joke", which pitted him against incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza who won a controversial third term in office as results were revealed on 24 July. Despite the boycott, Rwasa still drew 18.99% of the vote.

Months of violence plagued the lead up to the election after Nkurunziza's CNDD-FDD nominated him to run for a third term on 26 April. Opposition leaders said his run violated the constitution and 1993 Arusha Peace Agreement, which was signed to end the Rwandan Civil War.

Rwasa surprised Nditije on 27 July when he took his seat in parliament and said he would "play the game" within the country's government in order to seek reforms. Nditije called Rwasa's move a betrayal of the people who died in violent protests that he supported in the lead up to the election.

"I think everything will be determined by the outcome of the dialogue being conducted between the parties," Rwasa said on 27 July, striking a conciliatory pose. In an interview with DW on 29 July Rwasa said that "the people want change. We must recognize this desire of the people and live up to their expectations".

On 30 July Nkurunziza's party helped Rwasa win the post of the national assembly's first deputy speaker in a vote of 108 out of 112.

Reaction

"From now on we don't consider Agathon Rwasa to be a part of the opposition. He has been bought off by the government," an anonymous opposition figure told AFP.

Nigerian journalist with TVC News, Ugochi Oluigbo tweeted:

Online many Burundians are tweeting that the "about-face of Agathon Rwasa changes the political landscape" in their country. By taking his seat in parliament and accepting this new post, some Burundians claim Rwasa is tacitly supporting the past violence of the government.