Grenade blasts and boy­cott in Bu­rundi polls

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY AYMERIC VINCENOT AND ES­DRAS NDIKU­MANA

Bu­run­di­ans voted Mon­day in con­tro­ver­sial elec­tions amid an op­po­si­tion boy­cott and a string of grenade at­tacks, with the elec­tion com­mis­sion claim­ing a “mas­sive” turnout de­spite many sta­tions be­ing quiet.

As­sailants threw grenades both in the cap­i­tal Bu­jum­bura and at some pro­vin­cial vot­ing cen­ters ahead of Mon­day’s par­lia­men­tary and lo­cal elec­tions, de­lay­ing the start of vot­ing in some ar­eas, po­lice and elec­tion of­fi­cials said.

Another grenade ex­ploded in the cap­i­tal shortly af­ter vot­ing be­gan in the latest ex­am­ple of the weeks of vi­o­lence sparked by Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­izaa’s de­fi­ant bid for a third term.

By mid­day, elec­tion com­mis­sion chief Pierre-Claver Ndayi­cariye, said “par­tic­i­pa­tion was enor­mous through­out the coun­try.”

No of­fi­cial fig­ures were avail­able, and in polling sta­tions in Bu­jum­bura queues were short and turnout sparse with elec­tion of­fi­cials at times out­num­ber­ing vot­ers.

U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Kimoon ear­lier called for the elec­tions to be de­layed af­ter the op­po­si­tion said they would not take part, as Bu­rundi faces its worst cri­sis since civil war ended nine years ago.

The Euro­pean Union on Mon­day con­demned the de­ci­sion to hold elec­tions, say­ing polls “can only ex­ac­er­bate the pro­found cri­sis.”

Po­lice pa­trolled the streets of Bu­jum­bura, es­pe­cially in op­po­si­tion ar­eas where the worst vi­o­lence was seen dur­ing weeks of protests.

“Armed groups tried to at­tack polling cen­ters ... they were shoot­ing and threw grenades, but the po­lice stopped them,” deputy po­lice chief Gode­froid Biz­imana said.

In op­po­si­tion ar­eas, few civil­ians were seen at polling sta­tions. In some sta­tions, the lines of peo­ple queu­ing were mainly sol­diers or po­lice.

“The protesters closed roads to block us, but we went with the po­lice,” said An­nick Niy­onkuru, one of the few civil­ians wait­ing to vote in the cap­i­tal’s Musaga dis­trict.

Out­side the cap­i­tal, polling cen­ters also ap­peared quiet. In the south­ern Bu­ruri dis­trict, an op­po­si­tion strong­hold, about 10 per­cent of reg­is­tered vot­ers had cast their bal­lots by mid­day.

In nearby Ru­monge, a more po­lit­i­cally mixed area, turnout ap­peared to be around 30 per­cent.

AP

Burundian women wait to vote in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Ngozi, Bu­rundi, Mon­day, June 29.

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