Burundi postpones election results, international community intensifies pressure on Nkurunziza

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye has announced that the results of the June 29 communal and legislative polls will be announced next Tuesday July 7.

The commission had promised to announce Thursday but it instead released press statement postponing the highly anticipated announcement.

In the statement, Mr. Ndayicariye said some constituencies turned out to be bigger than expected thus delaying the vote counting process.

Meanwhile, the government has commended the way the June 29 polls were conducted throughout the country. In a statement issued Thursday evening, Philippe Nzobonariba, the government spokesman said the countrywide exercise was peaceful.

The United Nations Electoral Mission in Burundi (MENUB), one of the few observers that supervised the controversial elections said in a report the environment in which they were held was far from conducive thus they were neither free and fair nor credible and inclusive.

“The legislative and communal electoral process took place in a tense political crisis, and a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in parts of the country. Fundamental freedoms of participation, assembly, expression, opinion and information have suffered increasing restrictions during the campaign period and as Election Day drew nearer,” MENUB report charges.

The government Spokesman however, said observers were biased in their duties due to external pressure.

“The role validating or invalidating the election results is restricted to institutions which are provided by the Burundian constitution.” Nzobonariba said.

International community rejects “flawed” election

Following the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) decision to observe the elections, the Canadian government has announced that it does not recognize the results of the elections that were organized in precarious conditions.

“Canada cannot recognize the legitimacy of elections imposed by the Burundian authorities. The climate of intimidation, violence and fear imposed by the ruling party undermines any credibility in these elections. It is important to give the Burundian authorities a clear message: a forced vote is a stolen vote,” reads a July 2 press release by Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

In the scathing statement, Canada is shocked by “a level of political violence in Burundi not seen since the end of the civil war and the beginning of the very first mandate of the current government in 2005.”

Canada warns “President Pierre Nkurunziza’s actions threaten to ruin a decade of peace.”

Echoing Canada’s posture the United States has announced it is cutting security assistance to the troubled central African state.

“In response to the abuses committed by members of the police during political protests, we are suspending all International Law Enforcement Academy and Anti-Terrorism Assistance training that we provide to Burundian law enforcement agencies,” reads the July 2, US Department of Defense press statement

The United States has also suspend the upcoming training for the Burundian military under the Department of Defense’s Section 1206 Train and Equip program, as well as training and assistance under the Africa Military Education Program, following instability caused by the Burundian government’s disregard for the Arusha Agreement and its decision to proceed with “flawed” parliamentary elections.

“We remain deeply concerned that the current crisis will further hamper our ability to support the important contribution of the Burundian military to international peacekeeping,” the Statement further reads

Additionally, the US has joined “with the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, and other regional bodies and leaders in urging President Nkurunziza to place the welfare of Burundi’s citizens above his own political ambitions and participate in dialogue with the opposition and civil society to identify a peaceful solution to this deepening crisis.”

The United States is further threatening to take action against Burundi’s eligibility for the trade preferences within the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) due to the ongoing violence and instability, and lack of respect for the rule of law.

Despite increasing local and international pressure, the Burundian government and President Nkurunziza still maintain Monday’s elections were free and fair, and that the July 15 Presidential vote will go on as scheduled.