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Burundian leaders call for election to be postponed

22 May 2015


Unabated: protesters throw stones at police during clashes in the Nyakabyga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, on Thursday 

Unabated: protesters throw stones at police during clashes in the Nyakabyga neighbourhood of Bujumbura, on Thursday 

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 place.

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 uprising.

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. 


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