Burundian Catholic church withdraws support for elections

Burundi’s grand Catholic church bishops say they no longer support the Burundi government's decision to hold elections next month despite political unrest

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Burundian Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a statement explaining their withdrawal of support from the upcoming June elections. The bishops in the country had previously agreed to monitoring elections across the country.

Along with the Catholic church, the European Union also said it was suspending its election observer mission to the country, adding to international pressure over Pierre Nkurunziza decision to go through with the election without regard to Burundi’s rising civil unrest and divisions.

Burundi's government explained the reason for not postponing the elections by saying that it would allow the African nation to dodge a dangerous political vacuum that could lead to more unrest. Parliamentary elections are set for June 5 and presidential elections for June 26.

In the EU’s statement the body said it was suspending its election observer mission in Burundi over concerns about restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators and the intimidation of opposition parties and civic groups.

"All parties should engage in good faith in a dialogue to restore the necessary conditions for democratic elections and, primarily, the government of Burundi should reach out to all domestic actors by restoring confidence through concrete measures," the statement said.

Subsequently, the UN Security Council president said on Wednesday "the predominant opinion" of members is that Burundi's elections should be postponed.

The decision by Burundi’s president to run for a third time has plunged the country into its worst crisis since its ethnic-based civil war from 1993 to 2003 which saw the killing of at least 250,000 people. The country’s constitution clearly stipulates that a president can run only for two terms, however Nkurunziza’s supporters say he can run for a third time because he did not come to power in his first term by elections but the collective choice of Burundian lawmakers.

Burundi’s unrest has seen dozens of people killed and hundreds injured across the capital, Bujumbura, as well as a failed coup attempt which ended in the arrest of most of the army leaders that orchestrated it.

TRTWorld and agencies