Burundi: More protests as elections postponed

May 24, 2015

Burundi's embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza agreed on May 20 to postpone parliamentary elections, but refused to change the date of the presidential vote.

Parliamentary and local elections were moved back from May 26 to June 6. However, the contentious presidential vote remains scheduled for June 26.

For weeks, Nkurunziza has been under domestic and international pressure to postpone the presidential vote, amid simmering unrest in the southeast African nation. Nkurunziza narrowly clung to power despite a military coup on May 13 after a series of anti-government protests. The thwarted coup came as Nkurunziza was on an official visit to Tanzania.

Two generals announced that they had taken control of the government and ousted the president. However, a day later and after intense fighting in the capital, the generals announced the coup had failed. They were arrested shortly after.

However, protests have continued in Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, with demonstrators clashing with police throughout May 20. There were reports of small explosions in the city.

The protests first began when opposition parties accused the president of violating the constitution, which imposes a two-term limit on the president.

Nkurunziza says he should be eligible for another term, arguing his first term was by parliamentary appointment in the wake of a 2005 peace deal — not by popular vote. Burundi's constitutional court has ruled in favor of Nkurunziza, though one former judge has since accused the president of intimidation.

“If we did not give the third term a green light, we were going to be in trouble,” the court's vice president Sylvere Nimpagaritse said earlier this month, after fleeing to Rwanda. Human rights groups have warned that without a resolution to Burundi's political impasse, the country could face a humanitarian disaster. According to the United Nations' refugee agency, the UNHCR, over 105,000 Burundians have already fled the country. Most have sought safety in neighboring Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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