Burundi's civilian uproar puts election on hold

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/04/15, 02:38 pm

When President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi announced in April he was running for a third term, street protests broke out, leaving 20 people dead and more than 370 injured, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The protests resulted in a failed coup last month that lasted 48 hours.

Parliamentary elections that were set for Friday and presidential elections that were set for June 26 have now been postponed.

The protests arose from the president’s failure to comply with a 2005 peace agreement, which ended the civil war between the Tutsis and Hutus and split political power between them. President Nkurunziza, a Hutu, began as the country’s president in 2005. His 10-year tenure angered the Tutsis, who took to the streets to protest. They argue the president’s interest in running for a third-term violates the constitutional two-term tenure law. But Nkurunziza claims he was appointed and not elected for his first term.

Analysts say the desire for continuous power is common in Africa.

“This is not an isolated incident, but part of a regional epidemic in which leaders would seemingly rather see their country burn, as opposed to stepping down from power in line with their own constitutions,” said Jeffrey Smith, with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports more than 56,000 people fled to neighboring countries in fear of another civil war. Willy Nyamitwe, Burundi’s presidential adviser for media and information, said officials are waiting for a proposal from the electoral commission on the new election dates. Nkurunziza’s second term ends Aug. 26.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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