IN THE aftermath of a failed coup, and with protesters still on
the streets, the presidential election in Burundi should be
postponed, regional leaders in Africa concluded this week.
Heads of state from the International Conference on the Great
Lakes Region, including the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma,
said on Tuesday that the elections, scheduled for 26 June, should
be postponed indefinitely, until free and fair elections could take
Reports suggest that more than 20 people have died, and 200 have
been injured in demonstrations that began when the President,
Pierre Nkurunziza, announced that he would seek a third term (News, 15 May).
Many of those involved in the failed coup that took place on
Thursday of last week are now in prison. But demonstrators were out
again on the streets this week.
The protesters had "a determination to continue," an Anglican
official, Seth Ndayirukiye, who lives in Bujumbura, said on Monday.
"They are ready to die. . . The army is firing in the air when
demonstrators are blocking the roads or moving forward."
He referred to the President's claim that Burundi is facing a
threat from the Somali militant group al-Shabab, and agreed that
elections should be postponed. "Free and fair elections are still
to come until fear and peace are dealt with," he said. "They should
be postponed until an atmosphere of confidence and security is
assured; so that those who will be elected will be trusted."
The UN called on Friday for "inclusive dialogue", and warned
against "reprisals and revenge" in the wake of the failed coup.
On Sunday, the Telegraph reported accounts from medics
who said that that police loyal to the President had burst into a
hospital to drag away soldiers wounded in the attempted
About 111,000 people have fled Burundi since April. About 70,000
have arrived in Tanzania, where the UN is taking measures to
contain the spread of diarrhoea, which has led to the deaths of
seven people. Cholera is suspected. In one Tanzanian village, the
UN says, the population has increased from 10,000 to 90,000.
Christian Aid is working with partners, including the Anglican
Church of Burundi, to procure emergency supplies to help the
internally displaced. "Since the demonstrations began, life for
many Burundians has been paralysed, with local trade, transport,
and public services all affected," the Christian Aid country
manager, James Robinson, said on Monday.
"As the protests continue, stocks of goods such as petrol, food,
medicine, and water are becoming scarce. Any further disruption
threatens to leave communities both insecure and without essential
items. With the high levels of poverty in the country, it's the
poorest who are the least able to cope."
The Church in Burundi is calling for prayers for peace,
while it responds to the needs of vulnerable people.
The President of the Mothers' Union, Mathilde Nkwirikiye,
has already taken in several children evacuated from the Rainbow
Centre, in Bujumbura, which cares for
those abandoned or orphaned because of AIDS.