Burundi votes amidst gunfire and grenade explosions, US says election not credible

A burning road barricade in Bujumbura on election day July 21

A burning road barricade in Bujumbura on election day July 21.Photo/Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Voting is underway in the Central African state of Burundi as citizens are choosing their next president but the atmosphere is tense after a night of heavy gunfire and grenade explosions in the capital Bujumbura.

Reports say two people have died as the result of the shelling and explosions.

Voters are reporting heavy police presence at the polling stations and they say they are being searched before entering the election centers.

“They searched all my body, but I think given the situation in our country now this is a good thing,” Anastase Uwamungu told Afrika Reporter.

Meanwhile, according to the United States Tuesday’s poll in Burundi “will lack credibility” given the volatile situation on the ground coupled with the Bujumbura government’s decision to organize the vote in the middle of the ongoing conflict.

“The legitimacy of the electoral process in Burundi over the past few months has been tainted by the government’s harassment of opposition and civil society members, closing down of media outlets and political space, and intimidation of voters,” John Kirby, the US State Department Spokesman said in a statement Tuesday.

Kirby also says “the government’s insistence on going forward with Presidential elections on Tuesday risks its legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens and of the international community”

The US reiterates the controversial election will further discredit the Bujumbura government

As far as President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid is concerned, the United State sides with the opposition and civil society organisations that argue the president is violating the Arusha Peace Agreement and the Constitution.

Additionally the State Department Spokesman warns the government’s acts of intimidating voters and human rights violations “will force the United States to carefully review all aspects of our partnership not yet suspended, including the imposition of visa restrictions on those responsible for — or complicit in — promoting instability in Burundi through violence.”

President Nkurunziza is expected to win Tuesday’s election although majority of the opposition are not participating.

The president’s third term candidacy is believed to be the root cause of the current turmoil but some experts say the issue is more complex than just Nkurunziza’s candidacy.

Dr. Elavie Ndura, a Burundian Education Professor at George Mason University in the United States argues that the disillusionment and unemployment in the country’s youth is playing a big role in fueling the conflict.

She told the BBC’s News Hour many people in Burundi, historically have not closely followed the electoral and political processes much less President Nkurunziza’s election (s).

The African Union (AU) is not observing today’s election, and the government of Burundi has not cooperated with the continental body in allowing monitors to enter the country and assess and investigate human rights violation reports.