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-


the ent.

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.”

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