Burundi Votes Amid Gunfire, Blasts | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Burundi Votes Amid Gunfire, Blasts

Posted: Jul 22, 2015 at 3:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

People in Burundi are voting amid widespread tension over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third consecutive term.

At least one policeman and a civilian were killed in overnight violence before Burundi’s presidential vote on Tuesday, a presidential official said, after blasts and gunfire echoed around the capital Bujumbura.

The president’s office has described the latest protests as terrorist acts intended to disrupt the election.

Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe blamed the opposition and those behind weeks of protests for the violence, putting the death toll at two. “People do it to intimidate voters. They don’t want the voters to go to the polls,” he said.

Three minor opposition leaders are running for the presidency. Mr Nkurunziza’s four main rivals, including Agathon Rwasa, are boycotting the poll, but the electoral commission has kept their names on the ballot paper.

The African Union (AU) has not sent observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state.

It said the security climate does not allow for free and fair elections. Some 3.8 million Burundians are eligible to vote.

The European Union has expressed a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its anger with Mr Nkurunziza.

At least 70 people have been killed in protests since he announced in April that he was running for a third term.

In May, army generals opposed to his continuing rule failed to overthrow him in a coup.

Critics said that a win for President Nkurunziza would be a hollow triumph that will result in him governing a bitterly-divided nation.

Tensions between Burundi’s ethnic Hutu majority – comprising some 85 percent of the 10.5 million population – and the country’s Tutsi minority have flared up regularly since independence from Belgium in 1962.

Mr Nkurunziza led a Hutu rebel group fighting the Tutsi-dominated army until a peace deal led to him becoming president in 2005.

The Constitutional Court has backed his argument that his first term in office did not count towards the two-term limit, as he was elected by Members of Parliament.