Burundi’s poling despite boycott threats

Despite threats of election boycott, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza campaigns for controversial third term predicts victory on Tuesday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has stepped his campaign for a controversial third term in office, holding a rally in the country’s capital Bujumbura for Tuesday’s election.

On Friday, Nkurunziza campaigned in Kabarore, stating that next week’s elections will go ahead despite Burundi’s opposition threatening to boycott the polls and warning of violence.

Rumours emerged over the past few days speculate that the election will be postponed, but the Nkurunziza said the election will happen as planned and he is going to win, an Al Jazeera reporter in Kabarore, Haru Mutasa, reported.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue in Bujumbura between Burundi’s ruling party, the political opposition, and civil society and religious leaders.

A coalition government or power-sharing arrangement is being considered, according to Al Jazeera.

The crisis in Burundi began in late April when Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third consecutive five-year term as president, despite a constitutional two-term limit, sparking months of turmoil and an attempted coup in mid-May.

Scores of people have since been killed in months of protests, with more than 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries according to the UN.

On Thursday, two protesters opposed to Nkurunziza's bid were wounded when police opened fire at a demonstration in Bujumbura, witnesses told the AFP news agency.

The protesters had verbally clashed with supporters of the president.

Grenade explosions have also taken place the capital again in recent nights.

Burundian military sources have also recently reported fresh clashes with rebels in a forested area in the north of the country and near the country’s border with Rwanda.

Nkurunziza's ruling party scored a widely-expected landslide victory in parliamentary polls held on May 29, but these were boycotted by Burundi’s opposition and condemned internationally as neither free nor fair.

Burundi has been hit by weeks of civil unrest as the country’s opposition wants Nkurunziza to withdraw his bid for a third-term presidency, which is widely considered to violate Burundi's constitution and the Arusha Accords, a peace deal that ended over a decade long ethnic civil war in 2005.

Burundi’s constitution limits the presidency to two terms in office, but Nkurunziza's supporters say he can run again because he was elected to his first term by lawmakers rather than the public.

More than 70 people have been killed in months of violence and a failed coup was sparked by Nkurunziza's attempt to stay in power.

The African Union has refused to send observers to the polls as the "necessary conditions are not met for the organisation of free, fair, transparent and credible elections."

Almost four million people are registered to vote in the elections.

Civil society groups backed the boycott in a joint statement calling on voters to skip the "sham elections" and urged the international community "not to recognise the validity" of the polls.

"This is nothing new in Burundi," election commission chief Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye said. "In Africa, boycott is another way of doing politics."

A month ago UNHCR and its partners appealed for $207 million in assistance for more than 150,000 Burundian refugees, but have so far received just 13 percent of that amount.

TRTWorld and agencies