Tensions as Burundi leader launches re-election bid
Burundi’s president was Saturday declared as candidate for a controversial third term in office, his ruling party announced, despite mounting protests over a move that the opposition says is unconstitutional.
There were fears the political crisis, during which President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ruling CNDDFDD party has also been accused of intimidating opponents, could push Burundi back into violence.
The country, situated in Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region, only emerged from civil war in 2006.
The opposition has vowed
to take to the streets to challenge Nkurunziza’s candidacy for the June 26 presidential elections. They argue his refusal to step aside violates the constitution as well as the peace deal that ended the civil war.
There was tight security as the CNDD-FDD opened a special party congress on Saturday morning, during which Nkurunziza was officially designated as the party’s candidate.
“We wish to announce to the national and international community that the member who has been selected to represent us in the elections is Pierre Nkurunziza,” the head of the ruling CNDD-FDD par- ty, Pascal Nyabenda, announced after a party meeting.
He said Nkurunziza right to be elected.”
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, born-again Christian and football fanatic, has already served two-terms as president.
Delegates underwent thorough searches before being allowed into the venue. Police and soldiers have also been deployed on the streets of Bujumbura since Friday evening.
No Western ambassadors were present at the congress — a sign of unease among key donors over Nkurunziza’s bid to stay put. Only the Russian ambassador and several regional diplomats were pres-
An AFP reporter said many residents could be seen doing lastminute shopping in an apparent bid to stockpile supplies just in case unrest breaks out.
In addition to banning all demonstrations, the government has also threatened to call out the army.
The influential Catholic Church has also spoken out against the president’s plans to stay put, and earlier this month U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that the country was at a “crossroad” between a fair vote and a route back to its “horrendously violent past.”