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May 19, 2015

Burundi’s profession on tenterhooks amidst country’s turmoil

By Vincent Huck

Pailles, Mauritius/London. The president of Burundi’s accountancy professional body, Frederic Gahungu, told The Accountant that his organisation put its development projects on hold anticipating the civil unrest that unfolded ahead of the presidential election.

Gahungu, who heads the Ordre des Professionnels Comptables du Burundi (OPC) met with The Accountant at the African Congress of Accountants (ACOA15) in Mauritius.

During the course of the ACOA15, four senior military officers in Burundi’s army opposing President Pierre Nkurunziza bid to run for a third term in office and launched a coup to take control of the country.

Nkurunziza was out of the country at the moment of the coup and for several hours last week it was unclear who was in charge in the central African country.

Met at the ACOA in those uncertain hours on Thursday 14th May, the day following the coup, Gahungu said he was trying to monitor the situation through Whatsapp and news updates.

He shared his anxiety as he had left his family in Burundi and was unsure about when and how he would be able to return home.

"There has been a coup and there are now two factions in the army, those in favour of the putsch and the loyalists to the president, and we are not too sure who controls the country at the moment," he said.

Since then the coup has failed as Nkurunziza returned to Burundi and three of the four putschists have been arrested.

However the situation remains unstable in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, with the presidential election scheduled for next month.

Gahungu told The Accountant that OPC’s priority is to build a local qualification and a national diploma in accounting to strengthen the profession in the country.

At the moment the 800 members of OPC entered the profession through a university degree in administrative finance and five years’ experience in accounting.

To build the local qualification and national diploma, OPC will partner with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), through a MoU.

"We have agreed on a partnership with ICPAK and drafted the MoU, it only lacks our signatures," Gahungu said.

"But as there were signs of instability ahead of the elections, we agreed to wait for the end of the electoral process and/or of the general confusion."

He remained confident that the recent events are only temporary and that OPC will be able to resume its work soon. "The coup and political instability won’t last more than six months, then life will resume," he concluded.

The Accountant got hold of Gahungu at the time of writing. He made a safe trip to Burundi flying to Rwanda and driving from the neighbouring country.


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