Burundians defy police brutality, continue protests

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Protestors in Bujumbura want President Nkurunziza respect the constitution and not run for office in June

Since last Sunday, ferocious popular protests are underway in the streets of Bujumbura, the Capital of Burundi to force President Pierre Nkurunziza to withdraw his candidacy for the third presidential term in next month’s general elections.

Heavy armed police is trying to stop the protests, a significant number of protestors has been arrested by the police, the police is being aided by the ruling party’s (CNDD-FDD) youth wing Imbonerakure.

Despite massive crackdown by the police, protestors are have vowed to continue marching until President Nkurunziza changes his mind and drops the controversial unconstitutional move.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

EMBATTLED: President Pierre Nkurunziza

 

So far at least six people have been shot dead and several others, including police officials have sustained injuries in the clashes between protesters and the police.

Bujumbura government appears resolute to suppress the protests by any possible means, including undue force, beatings and arrests. Stern measures have also been taken to crush it behind the scenes.

Last Sunday morning, the first day of the protest, signals of three independent radio stations were cut off countrywide. Radio Isanganiro, RPA (Radio Public Africaine) and Radio Bonesha were no longer broadcasting in the countryside except Bujumbura and its suburbs.

Yesterday morning, the media synergy of four independent radio stations, including the aforementioned, was forcefully halted by the police around 11 am, subsequently African Public Radio (RPA) was completely shut down by the government.

The government has also shutdown social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and Tango to foil protestors’ plans.

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Burundi Police battling protestors at one of the roadblocks in the suburbs of Bujumbura

 

The CNDD-FDD government has also threatened to arrest the masterminds of the protests, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, one of the leaders of the protests as arrested by the police on Monday and released late on Tuesday.

In addition, the Attorney General of Bujumbura has issued arrest warrants for Vital Nshimirimana, Chairman of the Forum for Strengthening Civil Society (FORSC) and Pacifique Nininahazwe, Chairman of the Forum for Awareness and Development (FOCODE), two civil society leaders who have rallied people to take to the streets.
The current crisis in Burundi began over the weekend when the ruling CNDD-FDD put forth President Pierre Nkurunziza as the party’s flag bearer in the June 2015 presidential poll.
Nkurunzinza and his party’s stubborn move followed threats by the opposition and civil society in Burundi that they would call upon the people to demonstrate in case Nkurunziza dared stand for a third unconstitutional term.
Numerous threats and appeals notwithstanding, President Nkurunziza chose not to honour the Constitution and the 200-Arusha Peace Accord that bar him from running the third term.

Armed with stones, protestors are up against police tear gas, water cannons and even gun fire. protestors are battling security forces in several neighborhoods of the capital Bujumbura.

Police are even mounting roadblocks to deny protestors access to downtown Bujumbura, conversely, protestors are determined to converge at Independence Square in the heart of the capital.

“We are not scared of their teargas, we will protest until he (Nkurunziza) is gone”, one protestor told this website on his way to the square.

Mr. Nkurunziza has been in office since 2005, his supporters argue he should be allowed another term as he was elected by the legislature for the first term.

Meanwhile residents are quitting the capital Bujumbura to escape from possible upsurge of the violence.
Throughout the country, many Burundians have fled to neighboring countries with Rwanda registering a great number of refugees. The UNHCR in Rwanda announced Tuesday afternoon it had registered around 21,000 Burundian refugees.