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Burundi civil society urges election boycott

map_of_burundiBurundi civil society groups called Friday for voters to boycott “sham elections”, after opposition parties said they would not take part because fair polls were impossible after weeks of violence.

Civil society leaders issued a joint statement calling on the international community “not to recognise the validity” of the polls.

Parliamentary elections are due to be held on Monday and a presidential vote on July 15, when President Pierre Nkurunziza will bid to serve a third consecutive five-year term.

The central African nation was plunged into turmoil in late April when Nkurunziza launched his drive for another term in power, which opponents say is unconstitutional and violates a peace accord that ended 13 years of civil war in 2006.

“All the opposition have unanimously decided to boycott the elections,” said Charles Nditije, a key opposition leader, after a letter signed by representatives of all the political opposition was handed to the election commission.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Friday for the polls to be delayed, although similar calls have been dismissed by the government.

In a statement, Ban said Burundi needed a delay to create “a conducive environment for inclusive, peaceful and transparent elections.”

Analysts said the ruling party appeared intent on pressing ahead with the elections, despite the country being mired in its worst crisis since the end of the 1993-2006 war.

Many fear a repeat of that violence, which split the country along ethnic lines, pitting the majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis.

Around 70 people have been killed in weeks of street protests that have been brutally suppressed, triggering an exodus of around 127,000 into neighbouring countries.

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