Presidential elections: Two protesters shot dead in Burundi clashes.
Bujumbura: Two protesters were shot dead on Sunday in clashes with
police in Burundi's capital, witnesses said, as protests escalated
over a bid by the president to seek a third term. Clashes erupted in
several parts of Bujumbura the day after the ruling CNDD-FDD party,
which has been accused of intimidating opponents, designated President
Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate for the June 26 presidential
elections. Opposition figures and rights groups say the president's
effort to cling to power is unconstitutional, and there are fears the
worsening crisis could plunge the African Great Lakes nation -- which
only emerged from long and bloody civil war in 2006 -- back into
violence. Independent eyewitnesses said one person was shot dead in the
city's Ngagara district and another in Musaga after police used
live ammunition to disperse crowds who defied a government ban as well
as warnings that the army could be called out. One body was left in the
streets while another was taken away by Red Cross workers, several
witnesses said. "We had called for peaceful protests and that is
what happened, but the police and ruling party militia fired real
bullets at the protesters," said a Burundian opposition leader,
Frodebu Leonce Ngendakumana. Local media reports added that several more
people have been wounded in the city, while several police have also
been hurt in stone-throwing while trying to prevent thousands of youth
from marching to the city centre. Tens of demonstrators have also been
arrested, witnesses said. Burundi's Interior Minister Edouard
Nduwimana condemned what he said were "uprisings called for by
certain politicians and civil society". The independent and
influential African Public Radio (RPA), which has been for months
reporting on government intimidation of opponents, was also threatened
with closure unless it halted live broadcasts, officials said.
Washington warns Nkurunziza Tensions in Burundi have been mounting for
months with Nkurunziza -- a former rebel leader, born-again Christian
and football fanatic -- laying the groundwork for a third term.
Opposition groups say a third term would violate the constitution as
well as the peace deal that ended the civil war. The influential
Catholic Church has also spoken out against the president's plans
to stay put, and earlier this month UN 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".
On Saturday Washington condemned Nkurunziza's candidacy and warned
the country "is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its
democracy." "We specifically call on the Burundian government
to respect the rights of all peaceful political parties and their
candidates to campaign, hold meetings and rallies and express their
views," the State Department said. Thousands of Burundians have
fled the country in recent weeks to neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic
Republic of Congo, according to the UN's refugee agency, which has
also warned that the numbers of refugees could swell "with more
political tension rising and more acts of violence being reported."
Many are fleeing threats by the pro-government militia Imbonerakure, the
youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party. Rights groups allege that the
militia has been armed and trained over the past year in order help
Nkurunziza stay in office.
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