Unrest, low turnout mark controversial Burundi polls

Voters at a Bujumbura polling station

Voters at a Bujumbura polling station

Despite the boycott by the opposition and several calls from various key players, including the international community to postpone the electoral process, communal and legislative elections have been held across Burundi.

Around 3.8 million Burundians are expected to cast their votes by end today to elect their local leaders and parliamentary representatives.

Polling stations were expected to open early at 6:00 am but in most of them delayed up of 10, 30, 45 minutes or even longer than an hour as polling stations were attacked in Bujumbura and across the country.

In Bujumbura several polling stations have been combined at the request of security services so as to secure the process. This was done following rumors that “ill intentioned” persons might disturb and process by attacking the stations but still a number of them were attacked.

For Bujumbura residents, Sunday night was a nightmare as heavy gunfire and grenade explosions rocked several neighborhoods of the capital.

Security has been beefed up, heavily armed police and military personnel have joined forces to ensure safety of polling stations, voters were searched before entering some polling stations.

In anti-government neighborhoods like Nyakabiga and Musaga, many people didn’t vote as anti-third term youth protestors threatened to “deal with us if we dare vote”.

In the capital Bujumbura polling stations were not busy, just dozens of voters could be observed at polling stations at a time. This low turnout could be attributed to the wave of violence that has shaken the capital coupled with the fact that the opposition called upon the public to sit out the “sham elections”.

“At our polling station, I didn’t see many people, we were like 60, and everybody was so scared, police and the army were all over the place.” 25 year old university student, Bosco Hakizimana told this website.

IF CIVILIANS DON'T WANT TO VOTE WE WILL: the police and members of the military lining up to vote in Burundi

IF CIVILIANS DON’T WANT TO VOTE WE WILL: the police and members of the military lining up to vote in Burundi

At some polling stations, the police and members of the military were seen queuing up and voting.

The African Union and many international partners have withdrawn their support to the elections following the refusal of the Burundi government to postpone the elections until peace and security permit a conducive environment for free, fair and transparent elections.

Some local organizations and the UN Electoral Mission in Burundi (MENUB) have sent their observers to monitor voting.

President Pierre Nkurunziza on his way to the polling station to cast his vote

President Pierre Nkurunziza on his way to the polling station to cast his vote

President Pierre Nkurunziza rode a bicycle to a polling station in his home town Ngozi, and unlike in Bujumbura, his supporters showed up to vote in big numbers.