Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza is not backing down from his decision to stand as a presidential candidate for a third-term even after meeting with the leaders of the East African Community (EAC) in Burundi on Monday, Reuters has reported.
"The fact that the EAC leaders refused to take a position means that they know that for Nkurunziza, it's a question of life or death and he will stand for office again, whether there is a bloodbath or not," opposition leader Leonce Ngendakumana told IBTimes UK.
According to UN estimates more than 60 people have lost their lives in protests opposing Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term and 150,000 civilians have fled to neighboring countries after the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election
Opposition leaders want Nkurunziza to withdraw his third-term presidential bid in the upcoming June 26 elections - claiming it violates the country's constitution and the Arusha Accords, a peace deal that ended an over decade long ethnic civil war in 2005.
The constitution limits the presidency to two terms in office, but Nkurunziza's supporters say he can run again because his first term was picked by lawmakers and not by elections.
The EAC leaders met with a delegation from Nkurunziza’s party and Burundi’s opposition leaders.
"We met the leaders after the delegation met with the president. They explained to us the difficulties they had with Nkurunziza over the third-term question and how difficult it had been for them to take a firm position that would not compromise peace in the country," Ngendakumana said.
The delegation still hopes to find a path for further dialogue between the ruling party and opposition in Burundi.
"The EAC told us it was favouring a dialogue between Burundians to find a compromise. That's their strategy," Ngendakumana said of the three-hour long meeting.
The opposition politicians will not support an election unless the country’s militias are disarmed, a new electoral calendar is launched and the deployment of human rights observers is allowed.
"That's because it is only a number of Imbonerakure [the ruling party’s youth wing] aided by some police officers who prepare the elections with arms, not the CENI. This is terrorism: there is no electoral campaign except a few field visits from the CNDD-FDD with two satellite parties," Ngendakumana claimed.
"So this is what we told the EAC leaders, that we just wanted both the Constitution and the Arusha Accords to be respected, would it be in one week or two months – we just want to go forward with these elections,” he added.
"We want elections that will help us restore peace, trust and hope in the country," he said.