Election campaigns kick off in Burundi, donors suspend aid


Protestors on Bujumbura streets Monday


Campaigning for next month’s general elections Burundi has officially began despite the ongoing strife in Burundi

While opposition leaders and the international community have called for the rescheduling of the electoral calendar due to the prevailing insecurity in the country, the National Electoral Independent Commission says there is no way the election could be moved as all conditions on the ground favour the elections to take place.

“We are working to observe the schedule of the electoral process. The question of insecurity is not to be decided by CENI, it’s an issue of security bodies and the government,” says Prosper Ntahorwamiye, the spokesperson of the CENI.

President Pierre Nkurunziza whose decision to run for the controversial third term has sparked of popular protests in Bujumbura and other parts of the country, says there is no reason for the postponement of elections as 99% of the country is peaceful.

“The whole population is serene and the country in general is peaceful except some skirmishes prevailing these days in some areas of the capital Bujumbura,” President Nkurunziza said Friday after submitting his candidacy credentials.

To buttress the government’s stance, President Nkurunziza compared Burundi’s situation to Nigeria, a country that just concluded its election despite ongoing fight against Boko Haram terror group.

“If elections are well organized in that troubled country, what would prevent Burundi to organize this election?” He said.

It should be not however, the Nigerian election was postponed, albeit briefly.

Nkurunziza’s government’s decision not to postpone the elections defies a host of critics ranging from members of the opposition, the African Union, The United Kingdom, South Africa, and the United States among others.

Meanwhile anti-third continue, despite calls by the National Security Council Friday to stop the demonstrations unconditionally and resume normal activities in Bujumbura and in other parts of the country.

After a one-day truce announced by organizers Saturday, residents of Bujumbura returned to the streets Sunday. Hundreds of women forced their way to downtown Bujumbura and demonstrated against the third term and for once the police refrained from using teargas and live fire on discontent women.

This morning protestors are marching in full force once again, and the police are using live fire and teargas to disperse the demonstrations.

As a regional summit is due to take place this Wednesday May 13,  in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for dialogue to put an end to the crisis, warning that it is not only a threat to Burundi, but also to the whole East African region.

“The consequences of the unrest in Burundi will be felt beyond the country’s borders especially in neighboring countries.” Kenyatta said

President Kenyatta’s call follows Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame who came out recently to urge his Burundian counterpart to respect the voices of people in the streets. President Jakaya Kikwete has also cautioned players in the conflict to respect Arusha accords, and the country’s constitution.

The conflict has so far claimed 14 lives and more than 200 have been injured and hundred of Burundians opposed to Nkurunziza’s bid are believed to be in jails around.

Jeff Radebe, the special envoy of the South African President Jacob Zuma is in Burundi, heading a delegation which has come to try to persuade President Pierre Nkurunziza to withdraw his candidacy for the 3rd term.

In the meantime, after threatening to cut aid to the electoral process in Burundi, the European Union has made good on the threat.

Belgium has announced the suspension of its support to the elections and to the Burundi police due to the unrest that erupted a day after the declaration of Nkurunziza’s candidacy.

Belgium is the first country to suspend aid for elections in Burundi. The former colonial power is withholding $2.2 m of financial support, even though the first instalment of the package, 2 m euros, has already been disbursed.

Belgium’s International Development minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement on Monday “conditions for free elections have not been met at the moment”.

The Netherlands and Switzerland have also followed suit and withheld their support Burundi.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that more than 50,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda, Tanzania and the DR Congo in the past few weeks, and these numbers are set to increase.

Rwanda is hosting the majority of the refugees as the number was estimated at 25,591 as of May 10.