The president of Burundi has applied to run for a third term in office, a decision that has sparked weeks of protest and violence in the nations's capital. Thousands of Burundians have fled to neighboring countries.
President Pierre Nkurunziza "just handed in the file," to run for his controversial third term, a presidential spokesman confirmed on Friday. One day ahead of the Saturday deadline for candidate applications, Nkurunziza said he expected the elections to "go well" despite deadly clashes in the capital Bujumbura over his candidacy, which protestors say violates the constitution.
At least 18 people have been killed, one of whom was set on fire, allegedly by a member of the ruling CNDD-FDD party's youth wing, in the daily protests since the party chose Nkurunziza to run for reelection in late April. Demonstrators have thrown stones and burning tires at police, who have responded with tear gas, water cannons, and according to protesters, gunfire. The police deny the use of live rounds.
President plays down "insurrection"
"These demonstrations have turned into insurrection, but it is something that will be controlled shortly, and I assure you that the elections will go well," Nkurunziza told a group of his supporters, adding that the country outside the capital was calm.
"It is something which concerns only some areas of Bujumbura…in the rest of the country people go quietly about this work."
Opposition groups and civil society have claimed that a third term would violate the constitution, as well as accords which ended the 13-year civil war between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis in 2006. The constitutional court found in favor of the president on Tuesday, as his first term came from parliamentary appointment, not a popular vote.
However, the court's vice-president fled the country after refusing the sign the ruling, saying judges had been sent death threats over the matter.
Nkurunziza has sworn he will not seek a fourth term.
The CNDD-FDD was set to meet with the opposition on Friday in an effort to resolve the crisis which has forced more than 50,000 Burundians to seek shelter from the violence in neighboring countries, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
es/bw (AFP, Reuters)