Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said most of the country is secure, even as he postponed parliamentary elections and weeks of violent protests continued against the leader’s bid to extend his rule to 15 years.
Nkurunziza, who fended off a coup attempt last week, has said he will delay a legislative vote by a week to June 5 to give organizers more time to prepare and presidential elections will proceed as planned on June 26. More than 20 people have died in unrest since last month and 105,000 have fled to neighboring countries fearing a return to conflict in a country where 300,000 people died in a civil war that ended in 2005.
“You ought to know that 99.9 percent of the country is secure,” Nkurunziza said in a national address aired by the state broadcaster late on Wednesday. Protesters gathering in the capital, Bujumbura, should get off the streets and join political campaigns if they want to be part of civic life, he said. His government has previously said that demonstrators would be suspected of involvement in the thwarted coup.
Opposition leader Frederic Bamvuginyumvira said on Wednesday that demonstrations should carry on until Nkurunziza agrees to stand down after his current term ends. Opponents say his candidacy violates peace deals that ended the civil war, which specifies the president can serve a maximum of two stints in office. Nkurunziza’s supporters say he was appointed by parliament for an initial five-year term, so that period didn’t count because he wasn’t elected by the public.
A humanitarian crisis is shaping up across the border in Tanzania, especially at the entry point for refugees at a fishing village on Lake Tanganyika, where health and sanitation services are overwhelmed. Cases of cholera and severe diarrhea have been found at sites where displaced Burundians are being housed, according to the World Health Organization.
Burundi holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, according to the African Development Bank. Kermas Group, a London-based investment company, is developing a mine at Musongati in southeastern Burundi, which ranks as one of the 10 largest known deposits of the metal.