Protests hit Burundi as president delays polls

Soldier killed and protester shot in Bujumbura in clashes following postponement of local and parliamentary elections.

Riot police in Burundi
Burundi has been plunged into crisis after President Nkurunziza pushed for a third term in office [Reuters]

Burundian security forces have fired shots and tear gas at protesters after the president, Pierre Nkurunziza, delayed local and parliamentary elections for a week.

One soldier was killed by police and a protester was shot in the leg in the capital Bujumbura on Wednesday as thousands of people defied heavy gunfire and government orders to call off their protests, AFP news agency reported.

The clashes are continuing even a week after a failed coup led by a top general. At least 20 people have been killed in the violence so far.

According to AFP, journalists were threatened on Wednesday and a senior police officer warned reporters to “leave the area or we will shoot you with the Burundian protesters”.

Earlier on Wednesday, an adviser to Nkurunziza announced that the president would delay the local and parliamentary elections set for May 26 by a week.

Opposition activists say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term violates Burundi's constitution and the terms of a peace deal [AFP/Getty Images]
Opposition activists say Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term violates Burundi’s constitution and the terms of a peace deal [AFP/Getty Images]

Nkurunziza made the decision after a recommendation by the election commission and following requests from opposition politicians and the international community for a postponement, Willy Nyamitwe, the adviser, said.

Opposition and rights groups say Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term in power violates Burundi’s constitution and the terms of the peace deal that brought an end to the country’s 13-year civil war in 2006.

Following a now daily pattern of street protests against Nkurunziza, demonstrators gathered again on Wednesday and called for Nkurunziza not to seek a third term.

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Bujumbura, said the “protesters put up more barricades and stopped cars driving through their neighbourhoods”.

On Tuesday at least eight people were arrested as the police tried to disperse a demonstration involving protesters who tried to respond by throwing rocks at police ranks.

Calls for postponement

Earlier on Tuesday, South African President Jacob Zuma said presidential elections scheduled for June 26 in the landlocked country should be postponed indefinitely until political stability returned.

He was speaking at a summit in Angola that was convened after last week’s failed Burundi coup attempt.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta also urged Nkurunziza to postpone the presidential election.

Nkurunziza announced on Monday the dismissal of his defence and foreign ministers following the failed coup bid.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies