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Burundi violence escalates, opposition wants election delayed

Demonstrations against Burundi's president have degenerated into a man being burned alive in the capital Bujumbura. Protesters said he was a member of the ruling party's youth wing who had attacked them.

Demonstrations against Burundi's president have degenerated into a man being burned alive in the capital, Bujumbura. Protestors said he was a member of the ruling party's youth wing who had attacked them.

The immolation on Thursday culminated two weeks of protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza bid for a third term. Opponents say his bid violates the constitution and a 2003 peace deal.

"They put tires around his neck and then burned him," a witness told the Reuters news agency, referring to a man said by protestors to have been a member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party's Imbonerakure youth wing.

AFP reported that police shot dead one person and wounded three others as people thought to also be members of Imbonerakure clashed with demonstrators.

Another man took shelter from stone-throwers in a covered sewer until troops arrived and dispersed the mob, according to Associated Press.

Thursday's death raised the death toll to at least 10 since Nkurunziza was nominated by his party to run again in June 26 elections.

Exodus to Rwanda

Some 30,000 Burundians, mainly Tutsis, have fled to neighboring countries, mostly Rwanda, to escape the political violence, according to the UN refugee agency.

African Union chief executive Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned Thursday that Burundi's situation was not conducive for elections.

"As things stand, I don't even see how elections can take place under these conditions," Dlamini-Zuma told Chinese CCTV television.

Burundi's main opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has demanded that the June 26 vote be postponed, arguing the "credibility of the electoral process is already in doubt".

Another opposition politician, Audifax Ndabitoreye, was released late Wednesday after being arrested while meeting in the capital with foreign ministers of the East African Community who were trying to mediate an end to the crisis.

Dispute over court ruling

Diplomats have warned that the escalation in violence could reopen civil-war wounds between Burundi's Hutu majority and its Tutsi minority.

Burundi's Constitutional Court recently ruled that Nkurunziza, who once led the main Hutu rebel group, can seek a third term because for his first term he was picked by parliamentarians. The opposition accused the court of bias.

Civil society groups and opposition parties opposed to Nkurunziza running for a third term have called for peaceful rallies. Nkurunziza has said he

will not seek a fourth term

.

Neighboring Rwanda suffered a genocide in 1994 in which 800,000 people - mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were slaughtered.

East African leaders are to hold a emergency meeting in Tanzania on May 13.

ipj/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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