Violence escalates in Burundi ahead of polling day, voting equipment set ablaze

Hon. Pie Ntavyohanyuma, Burundian Speaker of the National Assemby who has fled the conflict-torn nation

Hon. Pie Ntavyohanyuma, Burundian Speaker of the National Assemby who has fled the conflict-torn nation

Two days until Burundians head to the polls in Burundi to elect their communal leaders and members of parliament, there has been an increased spate of violence fueled by grenade explosions that seem to occur on a daily basis.

Saturday night a building housing voting equipment belonging to the country’s electoral commission in Ntega, Northeast of the crisis-hit nation was attacked and set ablaze destroying voting booths and ballot boxes among other things.

“A group of unidentified young people took advantage of the police who were sleeping on duty and torched a building housing election material,” local governor Reverien Nzigamasabo said an interview with AFP adding “Part of the ballot boxes and voting booths were burned, but people were able to save the rest.”

Police say the attackers have not been identified. In a related development gun fire and grenade explosions were heard over night Friday in the capital Bujumbura but no victims have been reported.

This week Burundi has seen a series of grenade attacks the have claimed 7 lives and injured about 50 people.

This violence is has prompted the new mediator in the peace talks in Burundi, UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily to propose a new election roadmap as stakeholders in the crisis seek to reach a common ground.

The opposition has announced they will not be participating in Monday’s communal and legislative election as conditions on the ground do not permit free and fair elections.

The government however, maintains Monday’s elections will go on and the current electoral calendar will be observed as scheduled.

Uncertainty and fear has gripped the country as citizens are primarily concerned with their safety not elections.

“Who cares about elections?, all I care about now is my safety, and my family’s safety, we are tired of these grenades, God help us.” Alexis Nshimiye, a Bujumbura resident tells this website.

The current crisis was triggered by the ruling party CNDD-FDD’s decision to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza for the third term almost 2 months ago.

Opposition and civil society organisations contend the decision was “boneheaded” given the president and his party were well aware of the risks given the strong opposition against his “unconstitutional” third term.

Conversely, Nkurunziza has shrugged calls for withdrawal of his candidacy saying the constitution does not bar him from running. He points to the fact that the country’s constitutional court has validated his candidacy.

Meanwhile, the Second Vice President, and the Speaker of Parliament have resigned and fled to Belgium citing opposition to the third term and safety concerns.