Burundi president poised to defy critics and contest for a third term; would be second African leader to do so this year

Ruling party says choice has been made, 'it will be Nkurunziza whatever the consequences'

BURUNDI’S ruling party said Thursday it was poised to designate its candidate for upcoming presidential elections, with incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza expected to defy a two-term limit and seek re-election.

Officials said the CNDD-FDD party congress would be held on Saturday. Presidential elections in the central African nation are scheduled to be held on June 26.

Tensions in the small, landlocked nation have been mounting for months, with opposition parties, rights groups and diplomats saying Nkurunziza’s expected bid for re-election in June is unconstitutional. The ruling party has also been accused of suppressing the opposition.

The ruling party’s president, Pascal Nyabenda, insisted it was not a foregone conclusion that President Nkurunziza would be selected, asserting that the vote was open and that “it is up to party members to decide”.

However a senior CNDD-FDD party source told AFP that the choice “has already been made”.

“Whatever happens, it will be President Nkurunziza, regardless of the consequences,” the official said.

Five opposition parties, as well as splinter groups of the ruling CNDD-FDD who oppose Nkurunziza, have launched a campaign calling for the president not to run again. The influential Catholic Church has also spoken out against his expected attempt to stay put.

The UN Security Council has also warned that the upcoming elections could turn violent, and has vowed to take action against those who are fomenting unrest.

Burundi, situated in Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region, only emerged from a brutal 13-year civil war in 2006. 

Earlier this week Burundi’s government warned it could call out the army if anti-Nkurunziza protests escalate.

If he is picked he would become the second African president to run for a third term this year, after Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe, who is set to run in elections this Saturday.

Sudan president Omar al-Bashir is expected, who has been in power for a quarter century is expected to win elections held last week that the main opposition parties boycotted and which were criticised by foreign powers.

About 40% of registered Sudanese voters cast a ballot. Results will be announced on April 27.

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