Tensions and clashes in East Africa’s smallest country, Burundi continues to escalate with three protestors reported dead on Monday.
Following President Pierre Nkurunziza decision two weeks ago to seek a third term in power for the upcoming June general elections, protests in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura continue.
“We are deeply concerned about President Nkurunziza’s decision, which flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country. And the violence that is expressing, the concern of his own citizens about that choice should be listened to and avoided as we go forward in these days,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a press briefing in Nairobi
Nkurunziza took office 10 years ago after the end of a 12 year civil war.
Following a peace agreement in 2005 in Arusha, Tanzania it was decided that no president will run for office for more than two terms. However, the ruling party refutes this stating that Nkurunziza’s first term in office does not count because he was not appointed by the citizens of Burundi but by the parliament.
“It’s my understanding an African Union delegation will go there soon to meet with him to try to underscore the importance of adhering to the constitution of the country, and it’s our hope in the United States that ultimately that is what will happen and that the people of Burundi will be given the choice that their constitution promises them,” Kerry said.
Since protests began, thousands of Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries with many fearing that the nation will return to civil war. The country’s Red Cross says that at least eight people have been killed as demonstrations continue in Bujumbura.
The European Commission has disbursed 1.5 million Euros for support and protection of Burundi refugees in neighbouring countries.
"Such sudden and massive displacement is a humanitarian tragedy and a serious challenge to neighbouring countries' capacities to accommodate refugees. It is a serious concern in an already fragile region" EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides said in a press statement.
Reports also indicate that the government has cut social media access and private media houses shut down. Following this move, journalists in the country marched in Bujumbura to mark World Press Freedom Day. The government claims the media is stimulating tensions in the country.
"For us, what we are saying, we are calling for this situation to be stopped. To let media work, to let journalists free and to collect, you know this information. This is why for the republic to ask for the information," said Alexander Niyungeko, chairman of the Burundi Journalist Association.
Jolke Oppewal, Dutch envoy to Burundi said, “Dialogue is essential, and the dialogue must be based on a broad participation, must be based on information. That's why also at this point of having access to information, this point that we constantly underline as an important issue of bringing Burundi forward."