US calls Burundi polls illegitimate as Ban slams violence


Nkurunziza cycles to polling station (Photo by Reuters)

Voting in Burundi started Tuesday with high hopes on the side of Pierre Nkurunziza’s loyalists who expect him to win a third term in office.

However, the polls opened with the killing of a policeman and a civilian in explosions and gunfire that rocked the capital Bujumbura.

Also last night, a member of the opposition was killed in Nyakabiga neighbourhood.

Opposition leaders who denounced Nkurunziza’s candidacy as unconstitutional and a violation of the 2006 peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006, chose to boycott the election.

US calls elections illegitimate

A spokesman for the US is quoted by Al Jazeera saying the elections lacked credibility and by pressing ahead, the government risked its legitimacy.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said, the vote “will further discredit the government.”

In response, Nkurunziza told journalists he was allowing “the Burundian people to vote or to choose someone they believe in.”

The president arrived to vote in his home village of Buye on bike, the Reuters news agency reported.

Ban speaks on violent Burundi elections

In a “worrisome context,” and following the decision of the government of Burundi to hold the presidential election on 21 July, the United Nations chief called on the authorities to do all in their power to ensure security and a peaceful atmosphere during the polls.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon further calls on all parties to refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region,” reads the statement issued by the UN Spokesperson.

Mr. Ban reiterates his appeal for the resumption of a frank dialogue and urges parties to avoid undermining the progress achieved in “building democracy” since the signing of the Arusha Agreements, adds the statement.

The inter-Burundian dialogue that started on 14 July 2015 under the facilitation of Uganda has been indefinitely suspended.

“The Secretary-General notes that the suspension of the dialogue took place without agreement being reached on a range of issues that would have contributed to the creation of a climate conducive to the holding of credible and peaceful elections, as contained in the relevant recommendations of the East African Community (EAC) and the African Union.”

Recalling that the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission has deployed observers countrywide, the UN Chief calls on all parties to facilitate their work and, “in particular,” on the government to ensure their security.

According to the UN, civil unrest erupted on 26 April in Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, after the ruling Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) party elected President Pierre Nkurunziza on 25 April as its candidate for the then-scheduled 26 June presidential election.

It was postponed to July 15, then Tuesday July 21.

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