Burundi’s president endorses new poll dates

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

President of Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza. Image source defenceweb

Burundi’s President on Wednesday endorsed a new election timetable, hours after the UN warned increasing violence committed by a pro-government militia could push the country into a civil war.

Human rights activist Pierre Mbonimpa told newsmen that anti-government protests meanwhile continued in Bujumbura, where two demonstrators were killed.

For the first time, protests also took place outside of the capital, in the town of Kibago, located about 200 kilometres further south.

According to presidential spokesman, Willy Nyamitwe, President Nkurunziza approved presidential elections for July 15, followed by senatorial elections on July 24, as proposed by the electoral commission and a group of ministers on Tuesday.

Nyamitwe added that Nkurunziza, however, pushed back the proposed date for parliamentary and local government elections to June 29 – three days later than the commission’s proposal.

The proposal came after the East African Community recommended the delay of elections because of weeks of anti-government protests and a failed coup attempt.

Burundi’s opposition rejected the new dates, saying that the elections commission was not capable of functioning properly because two of five commissioners, both from the Tutsi ethnic group, resigned on Friday.

“The three remaining members belong to the Hutu ethnic group, while Burundi’s constitution stipulates the electoral commission must have at least two members from each group,’’ it said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Hussein said that refugees in neighbouring countries reported that the pro-government Imbonerakure movement has committed crimes – including executions, abductions and torture.

Al Hussein warned that it could tip an already extremely tense situation over the edge.

Human rights activists said over 30 people have been killed in nationwide protests which started on April 26, while demonstrators added that Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to seek a third term violated the constitution.

Former intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, attempted to seize power in Burundi in May after Nkurunziza announced his candidacy, but the plot failed a few days later.

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