Burundi’s government said Tuesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza would not end his third-term bid for power in elections next month despite weeks of opposition protests, and as heads of state gear up for a regional summit, though it is unclear if the issue of ‘third-termism’ will be on the agenda.
“This decision is non negotiable,” Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said in a radio broadcast, dismissing opposition demands he step down. He also said the electoral commission’s proposal to delay the presidential election until July 15 was the final time polls would be postponed.
This came as the opposition rejected proposals for a new election timetable after weeks of protests at the third-term bid, saying conditions for holding fair polls were not met.
The electoral commission on Monday suggested postponing the presidential election until July 15. It also suggested delaying parliamentary elections until June 26, and senator elections to July 24.
Opposition leader Charles Nditije demanded the setting up of a new independent electoral commission (CENI), after two of its five members resigned and left the country.
“If things remain as they are, we consider that it will be a masquerade, a parody of elections,” Nditije said. He also called for the disarmament of the ruling party’s youth wing—the Imbonerakure, who the United Nations say is a militia force—and for Nkurunziza to end his third-term bid for power.
“We cannot hold elections now,” Nditije told news agency AFP late Monday. “The conditions are not there, so elections cannot be credible and give acceptable results.”
The parliamentary election had been scheduled to take place on June 5 but was postponed indefinitely on the eve of the vote, while the presidential vote was initially scheduled for June 26.
Around 40 people have died and scores more have been injured in protests that began when Nkurunziza announced in late April that he would stand again, after Burundi’s constitutional court gave him the green light.
Faced down pressure
Nkurunziza’s opponents say his candidacy is unconstitutional and goes against the 2006 Arusha peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war. Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt last month and has since faced down international pressure, including aid cuts, aimed at forcing him to reconsider.
Nearly 100,000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
Last week, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, who is serving his second and last term, told the World Economic Forum on Africa in strong words that Africa as a political bloc should resolve not to allow any attempt by presidents on the continent to seek a third term in office.
“This business of us agreeing to serve two terms, only to realise ten years is too short, is a problem,” Zuma said.
Zuma was supported by Ghana’s Vice President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who said the issue of presidential term limits should be raised at the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg that started this week and culminates with heads of state meeting on June 14 and 15.