Burundi's president files candidacy amid tension

Court official says judges subjected to death threats to favour the re-election bid of Pierre Nkurunziza.

    Burundi's president files candidacy amid tension
    Demonstrators duck and run from soldiers firing into the air to disperse a crowd of demonstrator the capital Bujumbura [AP]

    Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has filed his candidacy to run for a third term, saying elections will "go well" despite days of deadly protests against his controversial bid.

    "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 said, as he handed over the documents needed to the electoral commission, surrounded by his supporters.

    Saturday is the deadline for candidates to submit applications to the election commission.

    At least 18 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when the ruling CNDD-FDD nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election, triggering daily protests. 

    Opposition parties and civil society groups say Nkurunziza's third-term bid 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.

    But the constitutional court has ruled in favour of Nkurunziza, saying his first presidential term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

    The court's vice-president, however, fled the country to neighbouring Rwanda, after refusing to sign the ruling, claiming judges had been subjected to death threats.

    "If we did not give the third term a green light, we were going to be in trouble," Sylvere Nimpagaritse said.

    Threats of violence

    President Nkurunziza, dressed in a grey suit without a tie, smiled at supporters, saying that the current crisis was "nothing compared to what we experienced in 1993-1994", referring to the start of the civil war that killed 300,000 people.

    "It is something which concerns only some areas of Bujumbura. In the rest of the country people go quietly about their work, more than 99 percent of the territory of Burundi is at peace," he said.

    Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority who has been in power since 2005, has come under intense international pressure to withdraw from the June 26 election.

    Protests have erupted in the capital Bujumbura in recent days, but these have not been independently confirmed.

    On Friday, the demonstrators declared a one-day truce with the president.

    "The collective against the third term announces that there is a one-day truce on Saturday," said Pacifique Nininahazwe, one of the main protest leaders said Friday. "The protests will resume on Sunday."

    More than 50,000 Burundians have fled in past weeks to neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

    Rwanda, with the same ethnic mix as Burundi, has voiced its concern about the unrest. It was victim of a genocide in 1994 in which about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

    Leading opposition figure, Agathon Rwasa, who like Nkurunziza led a Hutu militia in the war, plans to run as an independent.

    He told Reuters registering "may be a very hard exercise" as the 200 witnesses from across the country needed to support his application might not secure required documentation in time. He said the authorities had created obstacles.

    The government has promised a free and fair vote.

    Rwasa has called for delay in the May parliamentary poll and June presidential election due to the unrest but said votes should take place before Nkurunziza's term runs out on Aug. 26.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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