African Union warns against Burundi elections

AFP , Thursday 7 May 2015

Soldiers run after demonstrators protesting against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office who caught and stoned a suspected Imbonerakure militiaman in the Cibitoke district of Bujumbura, Burundi, Thursday May 7, 2015 (Photo: AP)

The African Union warned Thursday the situation in Burundi was not suitable to hold elections, saying it could not send poll observers after deadly protests triggered by the president's bid for a third term.

"The environment is not conducive for an election. You can't be going into a country meeting refugees leaving, and saying 'we are gong to observe the elections,'" AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told Chinese broadcaster CCTV.

"As things stand I don't even see how elections can take place under these conditions."

At least 15 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when the ruling CNDD-FDD nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to stand for reelection, triggering daily protests.

Opposition parties and civil society groups say Nkurunziza's third-term quest violates both the constitution, which limits a president to two terms in office, and the accords that ended a 13-year civil war between Tutsis and Hutus in 2006.

On Thursday, at least one person was killed and several more wounded in fresh clashes, after Nkurunziza insisted he will run for the controversial third term.

"What type of election is going to take place under these conditions? As the AU we were planning to send long term observers but we can't now, we cannot," she added.

The Constitutional Court found in favour of the rebel leader-turned-president in a ruling Tuesday, saying his first presidential term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

The court's vice-president fled the country after refusing to sign the judgement.

But critics say his candidacy violates the constitution and the Arusha accords that ended the civil war.

"Other than the Burundi court all interpretation that we get about the constitution is that ... really there shouldn't be a third term," Dlamini-Zuma added.

"Now we are having a situation where neighbouring countries are receiving refugees from Burundi which is what we were trying to avoid."

Over 35,000 refugees have fled into Rwanda, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"My view is that if there is a constitution it should be respected," Dlamini-Zuma added.

"If there is a need to amend it, there should be consensus across the country about its amendment. It cannot be done unilaterally by one section of the population."

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