Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has finally spoken on the ongoing protests against his pursuit of the third term in office.
Protests yesterday entered a straight fifth day.
Nkurunziza told Tom Malinowski, U.S assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, that protests against him were illegal.
His spokesman, Gervais Abayeho, told press that Nkurunziza would not restrict the opposition from participating in the presidential race in the June elections.
He said the “political space would be respected and there is no restriction whatsoever to anybody who is engaged in political competition” but that riots were not the way to go.
Blocking of social media
Social Media is still inaccessible in Burundi since the start of the week.
The Telcoms regulator, Agence de Régulation et de Contrôle des Telecoms, reportedly ordered mobile phone operators to block certain websites and instant messaging services.
So far, three radio stations were shut down and social media platforms switched off following the protests.
FDLR joins Nkurunziza militia to supress protesters
There have also been reports that elements of the FDLR genocidaires could have joined the Imbonerakure in attacking civilians, with some protesters claiming they had identified and captured FDLR operatives during the violence on the streets of Bujumbura.
FDLR militia, with bases in eastern DR Congo, is primarily composed of those blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which at least a million people were killed.
Six killed including a soldier, 15 injured
Protesters in several suburbs of the capital Bujumbura clashed with police, using smouldering tyres, sticks and stones to barricade roads.
The Burundi Red Cross said 15 protesters were injured (some suffered bullet wounds) during clashes with the police on Thursday.
One soldier was shot dead by six unknown gunmen in a pickup truck.
Killing and detaining of children
“Children are at risk of bearing the brunt of the confrontations in and around Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, according to UNICEF.
The agency said it received reports of violations of children’s rights have been received since the start of street protests in and around Bujumbura on 26 April, including those of children being caught up in protests, detained and being physically injured, as well as one case of a child being killed.
“Children should not be exposed to violence, and should not be separated from their families.”
AU wants Nkurunziza militia disarmed
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 503rd meeting held on 30 April 2015, has reiterated its concern about the serious threats that the prevailing situation in Burundi poses to peace, security and stability in the country, with far reaching implications for the whole region.
Council renewed its urgent appeal for restraint and dialogue, to help overcome the current difficulties, preserve the gains made and deepen democracy and the rule of law, in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Council underlined its rejection of violence and its demand for the scrupulous respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as for the disarmament of all militias and other illegal armed groups.
Council looks forward to the early dispatch to Burundi of a high-level mission in Burundi by the Chairperson of the Commission and urged the Government of Burundi and all other stakeholders to cooperate fully with the planned mission.
US threatens sanctions
Malinowski, U.S assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour told Nkurunziza on Thursday that his “country risks boiling over if it smothers political opposition”.
Malinowski said Thursday, warning that Washington could impose targeted sanctions if Nkurunziza refuses dialogue.
Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on Wednesday that Nkurunziza had violated the peace deal that ended the civil war by seeking a third term.
She said Washington was deeply troubled by arrests of protesters and the shuttering of independent media.
The Arusha Accorded that ended a civil war in 2005 allows Nkurunziza to run for only two terms.