BUJUMBURA (Reuters) – Burundi’s presidential election has been postponed to July 21 from July 15, a presidential spokesman said on Saturday, after African leaders called for a delay in a bid to end the nation’s worst political crisis since a civil war ended in 2005.
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement on April 25 that he planned to seek a third term in office triggered weeks of protests by opponents who say it violates the constitution. The president cites a court ruling say he can run again.
Opposition parties have said they would boycott the presidential vote. They also stayed away from parliamentary polls in June, handing Nkurunziza’s party a sweeping victory.
When asked whether the presidential vote had been delayed, presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho told Reuters in phone text message: “Postponed to July 21.”
He said the decree had been signed by the president on Friday and was in response to the request made by leaders of east African states plus South Africa.
The African nations had sought a delay until July 30 to give time for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to try to mediate between the opposing groups. Abayeho said such a long delay “would be beyond constitutional limits.”
The constitution requires that the presidential election is held at least a month before the end of the president’s term, which is Aug. 26.
The crisis has alarmed a region with a history of ethnic conflict. Burundi’s civil war had pitted rebel groups of the majority Hutus, including one led by Nkurunziza, against minority Tutsis, who commanded the army at that time.
Dozens have been killed in protests against Nkurunziza’s re-election bid, mostly in the capital. Demonstrators have regularly clashed with police. More than 140,000 people have fled to neighbouring states for fear of broadening violence.
A general involved in a failed coup attempt in May told Reuters this week he and his comrades were still planning to oust Nkurunziza. The government says any attempt to destabilise Burundi would be met by the security forces. [ID:nL8N0ZP4C3]
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