Burundi Protests Persist Over President’s Bid for Third Term

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Protests in Burundi entered a second day with five deaths reported in unrest that erupted after the ruling party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to stand for a third term, a move opponents say violates peace agreements.

Opposition parties, civil society leaders and a wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD staged demonstrations in the East African nation’s capital, Bujumbura, after Nkurunziza’s April 25 nomination, Leonidas Hatungimana, a former presidential spokesman, said by phone. Police teargassed protesters, while some soldiers have protected those demonstrating, he said. Police spokesmen didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

“We will leave the streets after Burundi’s president says he won’t violate the constitution and the Arusha Accords,” said Hatungimana, who was expelled from the ruling party last month. African Public Radio, based in Bujumbura, reported that five people have died since Sunday, citing family members.

Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 after leading a rebel group during the landlocked country’s 12-year civil war. The Arusha Accords, which eventually brought an end to the conflict that killed 300,000 people, stipulated a two-term presidential limit and power-sharing between the country’s ethnic groups.

Police officers blocked a building where four radio stations operate, entering studios and harassing presenters, according to Patrick Nduwimana, president of the Burundi Broadcast Association. “Today they are here to prevent us from working” so the media can’t tell people what is happening, he said.

The U.S. State Department said it “deeply regrets” the ruling party’s decision to choose Nkurunziza as its candidate for the June vote. “Burundi is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy by establishing a tradition of peaceful democratic transition,” acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

At least 11,850 people have fled to neighboring Rwanda since the start of the month as incidents of violence mount before the elections, the United Nations said on April 24.

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