Burundi’s political crisis has deepened following the decision of opposition parties to boycott upcoming elections over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term plots that has turned the Central African nation into theatre of violence and extrajudicial killings in recent months. Burundi government had scheduled June 29 and July 15 respectively for parliamentary and presidential elections, despite escalating political turmoil in the country.

In a joint boycott statement issued Friday morning in the country’s capital, Bujumbura, the opposition parties declared that they are pulling out of the electoral contest because it was not possible to hold a fair vote poll under prevailing political situation.

“All the opposition have unanimously decided to boycott the elections,” explained Charles Nditije, one of the opposition leaders who submitted a letter signed by representatives of all the political opposition to the election commission.

The opposition coalition which criticised the timetable set by the election commission insists it will not take part in polls until conditions for “peaceful, transparent and inclusive” elections are met. Other conditions given by the opposition for participating in the elections in the letter includes “disarmament of the Imbonerakure militia, the security of the electoral process and political leaders and society, and the reopening of the independent media, the return of refugees”.

The decision of the opposition to boycott the election came at a time several top officials of the Nkurunziza-led government, including the deputy vice-president, members of the election commission and constitutional court, have switched sides and fled the country.

In a letter addressed to Nkurunziza before fleeing to Belgium, second vice president Gervais Rufyikiri on Thursday urged the president to “put the interests of the Burundian people before your personal interests”.

“Withdraw your presidential bid, because it violates the constitution,” Rufyikiri wrote, lending his voice to opponents’ claim that President Nkurunziza’s third-term bid is unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war in 2006.

Around 70 people have been killed so far in the ensuing street protests that have been brutally suppressed by the government, triggering an exodus of around 100,000 into neighbouring countries. And the ruling CNDD-FDD’s youth wing,  Imbonerakure (which means “the Watchmen”) have been accused by the UN of being the militia force behind the attacks.

On Thursday, diplomats said international mediators had again called for a poll delay, suggesting that all the elections be held on July 31, arguing that this would give both sides more time to resolve the crisis before Nkurunziza’s current mandate expires on August 26. The government, however, has rejected demands for a delay.

By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)


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