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Burundi 2nd vice-president flees, urges president to step down

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

Burundi’s second vice president has fled the country and sought refuge in Belgium after urging the president to step down, days ahead of key elections.

“Put the interests of the Burundian people before your personal interests and withdraw your presidential bid, because it violates the constitution,” Gervais Rufyikiri said in a letter addressed to President Pierre Nkurunziza.

He told France 24 television he had sought refuge in Belgium after opposing Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in power.

“I left… because I was not able to continue to support the attitude of the president, his desire to lead the people of Burundi on the path of illegality,” he told the broadcaster late Wednesday from Belgium.

In the Burundian capital Bujumbura, a source in the presidency confirmed the authenticity of Rufyikiri’s letter, and also that he was currently in Belgium.

The troubled central African nation has been in crisis since late April over Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for another five-year term.

This move is branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that paved the way to end 13 years of civil war in 2006.

Parliamentary elections are due to be held on Monday, ahead of the presidential vote on July 15.

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