Burundi gov’t hints at moving presidential poll, UN warns of violent bloodshed

Angry residents of Buterere area burning tires in bid to block the main road

Angry residents of Buterere area burning tires in bid to block the main road

The electoral body in Burundi has indicated its difficult but possible postpone the July 15 presidential poll until July 30 as recommended by recent East African Community heads of state summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

“Technically, the date of July 30 recently recommended is not practically implementable because according to the Constitution, the president must be elected at least one month before August 26, the swearing-in date,” Prosper Ntahorwamiye, the Spokesman for the electoral commission told Radio Burundi adding “If we hold these elections on July 30, we’ll be out of the law as we’ll only have 26 days.”

Mr. Ntahorwamiye says in case the presidential polls were held July 30, the electoral commission (CENI) would not have enough time for vote counting,  to announce results or organize a run off if need be.

The election commission official nonetheless acknowledges that due to political reasons, the postponement could be made.

Philippe Nzobonariba, the government spokesman said they have taken note of EAC’s r recommendation of postponing the presidential elections and that they are reviewing it.

“The government of Burundi has set up a competent technical committee to work on the implementation of the EAC Heads of States recommendation about a possible delay,” Mr. Nzobonariba said in a press statement released Thursday evening.

In recent weeks, the government and President Pierre Nkurunziza and his ruling CNDD-FDD have been adamant the next week’s poll would go on as scheduled.

The government also warns opposition not to reject the EAC-appointed facilitator in the talks to end the turmoil, Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda saying “if the opposition acts like it did pulling out of the just concluded elections then the political crisis will not be resolved soon”

Meanwhile, tension is still high in Bujumbura especially in anti-government neighborhoods.

On Thursday around 10am local time, heavy gunshots were heard in Mutakura, one of anti- President Pierre Nkurunziza third term areas, north of the capital Bujumbura.

Police used live bullets to disperse the youths who had barricaded the main road by burning tires.

The strife resulted from a National Intelligence Service raid on Wednesday evening aiming at “withdrawing arms from the wrong hands” in that area. During the operation, two residents were arrested but with no weapons found in their homes according to neighbors, a move that sparked anger and chaos.

In turn residents took one policer and the Buterere district chief hostage before releasing them Thursday morning after a lengthy battle and negotiation

Calm lasted briefly as residents of Buterere barricaded the main road leading to the Bujumbura International Airport.

In a related development, the United Nations has warned the situation in Burundi risks spiraling into full scale violence and bloodshed.

“Burundi is on the brink again [and] the grave danger the country faces should not be underestimated, given the increasing polarization and the apparent choice of Burundian leaders to put personal interest before those of the country,” the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the Security Council Thursday.

Mr. Zerihoun concerns were echoed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein who cautioned the Security Council that “an escalating pattern of politically motivated violence, coupled with this country’s history of recurring bloodshed and atrocities, should alert us to the potential for serious crisis.”