Burundi postpones controversial presidential poll

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

For the second time the Burundian government is moving the forthcoming presidential election that was slated for July 15, to July 21, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s Spokesman Gervais Abayeho said Saturday.

Abayeho told Reuters “Postponed to July 21.”

Sources close to the decision say the president signed the decree to delay the election Friday.

This is the second time the government is bowing to pressure to move the contentious election. Originally, the poll was scheduled for June 26 but due increasing calls from the opposition and civil society, and regional leaders and the international community, it was pushed to July 15.

Last week, the East African Community heads of state summit in Dar es Salaam urged the Bujumbura government to delay the poll until July 30, and it said it was reviewing the EAC leaders’ recommendation a few days ago.

“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,” Philippe Nzobonariba, the Spokesman  for Burundi’s electoral commission (CENI) said in a press statement Thursday evening.

The government’s decision to delay the polls for 6 days will satisfy neither the opposition and civil society nor EAC leaders and the international community all of which are calling for postponement for the entire electoral process until peace returns to the Central Africa nation.

President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third time ignited the current political crisis, despite repeated appeals from the opposition and civil society to drop his “illegal” candidacy, he remains adamant he is running and that the constitution allows him to do so.

The conflict has thus far claimed nearly 100 lives, and about 150, 000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.

The United Nations has warned the turmoil is likely to degenerate into a full scale bloodshed