Obama says Burundi’s elections 'not credible'

Following incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s victory in Burundi’s opposition boycotted elections, US president Barack Obama called the elections 'not entirely credible'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

US president Barack Obama called Burundi's presidential elections “not entirely credible” and urged winning President Pierre Nkurunziza to hold "meaningful, serious" dialogue with the opposition that boycotted the elections, Obama addressed the Burundian matter during his Nairobi visit on Saturday.

Secretary of State John Kerry election also called the elections "deeply flawed" is a US State Department statement.

"It is imperative that the government of Burundi re-engage in a meaningful, serious dialogue with opposition and civil society leaders to reach a consensus on the way forward," Kerry said in a statement on Friday, declaring the vote "deeply flawed".

Burundian incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third, five-year term as president in spite of the bloody confrontations which have lasted since last April when he announced his intention to run for a third term.

The country's electoral commission announced Nkurunziza’s victory on Friday, after a vote marred by violence which was boycotted by the opposition.

Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, head of the electoral commission, told reporters that Nkurunziza had won 69.41 percent of the votes cast. Nkrunziza's nearest rival, Agathon Rwasa, took 18.99 percent.

Nkurunziza’s ruling party dismissed the US criticism of the election that came even before voting began. Party chief Pascal Nyabenda said the remarks of US officials were "negative and nihilistic" and implied "the Burundian people cannot rule themselves."

Ndayicariye said election turnout was considerably weak in Bujumbura and the southwestern Bururi province, but gave an overall figure of 74 percent of the 3.8 million eligible voters in Burundi to be present at ballot boxes.

Nkurunziza's main rival, Agathon Rwasa, is registered as an independent candidate because his political party, the National Liberation Forces (Forces pour la Libération Nationale, FNL) is not recognised by the government. Several opposition parties announced they would boycott the elections.

Nkurunziza’s supporters claim he’s eligible for a third term because he was chosen by legislators - and not popularly elected - for his first term, and the country’s constitutional court ruled in his favour, maintaining the legal status for his third term bid.

"The Burundian people are allowed to vote or to choose someone they believe in," said Nkurunziza to reporters as he arrived to vote in his home village of Buye on bike.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on authorities to do everything in their power to ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the election.

"He [Ban] further calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region," his spokesman said in a statement on his behalf.

The bloody unrest over Nkurunziza’s third term bid sparked violent protests and plunged the country in the largest unprecedented crises since the end of the civil war in 2006, which lead to the deaths over 300,000 people.

Tensions in Burundi have forced more than 175,000 people to flee this year to neighbouring African nations. Doctors Without Borders said on Monday that about a thousand people were fleeing each day into Tanzania, fearing their country may again sink into dangerous unrest.

A failed coup attempt was staged by army generals in May while the president was abroad, most of whom were later arrested after Nkurunziza returned  to the capital to reclaim his office.

A peace deal let Nkurunzıza to become president in 2005, after he led a Hutu rebel group fighting the Tutsi dominated army.

Burundi is comprised of a  Hutu majority - with some 85 percent of the 10.5 million population - and a Tutsi minority who have flared up regularly since independence from Belgium was reached in 1962.

TRTWorld and agencies