AT least seven people have died and 66 others wounded in nearly a week of clashes between police and protestors in the central African nation of Burundi, officials said Friday.
Giving an overall toll of those injured in the violence, Burundian Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza said 29 people were hurt in Thursday’s clashes, bringing to 66 the number of wounded since the violence began on Sunday.
Sporadic clashes continued in parts of the capital Bujumbura on Friday, witnesses said, while hundreds of university students—whose student lodgings have been closed by the government—have been camping outside the US embassy, saying they want protection.
A US envoy Thursday warned the crisis in Burundi over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to cling to power for a third term is “very dangerous”.
Speaking after talks with the central African nation’s president, senior US diplomat Tom Malinowski said Washington could impose targeted sanctions over the crisis.
Unrest broke out in Burundi on Sunday, after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated President Nkurunziza as its candidate for the next presidential election, which is due to be held on June 26.
Opposition figures and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s attempt to stand for a third consecutive term goes against the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.
“The position of the United States on the issue of a third term is one that is clear. We made it known publicly many times before and I reiterated it in front of president Nkurunziza this morning,” said Malinowski, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
“The current situation is very, very dangerous, and that some of the measures that have been taken, including in recent days, to shut down social media, to suspend radio stations not only are wrong as a matter of principle but very counter-productive,” he added.
He said that Washington hoped for “a stepping back from repressive measures”, and said it was “still not too late to resolve these problems and to move forward on a path of dialogue and democracy”.
Malinowski added that if Nkurunziza refuses dialogue, “there will be consequences in our relationship with Burundi, including targeted measures against those who are responsible for violence.”
At least seven people have so far been killed in the protests.
Three were killed on the first day of protests on Sunday—when police were accused of firing on demonstrators—and three later that night in an alleged attack by ruling party militia forces, according to the Red Cross.
A Burundi soldier was also shot dead on Thursday when an intelligence officer opened fire near a barricade erected by protesters, a police official said.
President Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian from the Hutu majority, has been in power for two terms since 2005.
His supporters maintain he is eligible to run again, since his first term in office followed his election by parliament—not directly by the people as the constitution specifies..