Burundi Opposition Protests Nkurunziza’s Presidential Candidacy

Burundi’s civil society organizations held protest today against the ruling party’s nomination of President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate for elections in June, defying a two-term limit on the position.

The nomination is “a coup against the constitution and Arusha Accords,” Vital Nshimirama, civil society leader and one of those who called for demonstrations, said in a phone interview from the capital, Bujumbura. Radio Isanganiro, a private station, reported two people were killed during the protests.

Tensions are rising before elections in the country, which emerged from civil war about 10 years ago, with the United Nations expressing concern over reports of intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detention faced by people including journalists and human-rights activists. The ruling CNDD-FDD on Saturday nominated Nkurunziza, who has ruled the landlocked East African nation since 2005.

The country’s opposition said on April 20 that 65 people were jailed for “participation in an insurrectionary movement” after they demonstrated against the possibility of a third term for Nkurunziza. Earlier this month, the UN refugee agency said more than 5,000 Burundians had fled to neighboring Rwanda in April amid incidents of pre-election violence.

Nkurunziza came to power after leading a rebel group during the civil war. The Arusha Accords, which eventually brought an end to the conflict that killed 300,000 people, stipulated the presidential limit and power-sharing between the country’s ethnic groups.

Nkurunziza’s nomination “means he has buried Arusha Accords and we can’t tolerate that,” Leonce Ngendakumana, leader of the opposition coalition, said by phone. “We will strike until Nkurunziza agrees to respect the constitution and the Arusha Accords.”

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