Three killed in Burundi clashes ahead of polls
At least three people were killed in Burundi overnight Saturday, witnesses said, as tension rises a day before key polls in the central African nation that the UN warns should be postponed.
One was shot while another was killed in a grenade blast, according to witnesses. A soldier was killed by accident by a comrade during a raid on a house, adding to the more than 70 killed in weeks of violence and a failed coup sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to stay in power for a third term.
Parliamentary and local elections are set to be held on Monday, and a presidential vote on July 15.
The opposition on Friday said it was boycotting the polls, claiming it is not possible to hold a fair vote, with over 127,000 people having fled into neighbouring countries, fearing further violence.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for the elections to be delayed after the opposition said they would not take part, as Burundi faces its worst crisis since its civil war ended nine years ago.
Burundi was plunged into turmoil in late April when Nkurunziza launched his drive for a third consecutive five-year term, triggering widespread protests.
Opponents say his bid for another term is unconstitutional and violates a peace accord that paved the way to end 13 years of civil war in 2006.
Civil society groups backed the boycott in a joint statement calling on voters to skip the “sham elections” and urging the international community “not to recognise the validity” of the polls.
“Thousands of Burundians have fled the country, a thousand peaceful demonstrators were arrested, tortured, and are currently languishing in jail,” the statement said.
Former colonial power Belgium has said it would not recognise the results of the elections, saying it is “impossible” for the polls to be held in an “acceptable manner”.
Criticising the timetable for the polls set by the electoral commission, the opposition said it would not take part until conditions for “peaceful, transparent and inclusive” polls were met.
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