Burundi still tense with protests as US sends diplomat

AP News
Posted: Apr 29, 2015 4:49 PM
Burundi still tense with protests as US sends diplomat

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Protesters were again on the streets Wednesday, angry over the Burundian president's third term bid that they say is unconstitutional, as a top U.S. diplomat headed to the East African nation.

Tom Malinowski, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said on Twitter that he is disappointed that President Pierre Nkurunziza is violating the 2005 peace accord. While announcing that he is on his way to Burundi, he said it is not too late for Burundi's leaders and the people to stay on the path of peace and democracy.

Some demonstrators are vowing not to leave the streets until the president withdraws his candidacy. Army troops came out and acted as a buffer between protesters and police in the capital on Wednesday.

"Until the president says he will not run for a third term ... we will not leave this place, because we are fighting for our country and our rights," said Elia Ndayishimiye, one of the demonstrators.

Nkurunziza was selected on Saturday to be the ruling party's candidate for the June 26 presidential election. At least six people have been killed in clashes with the police, according to the Burundi Red Cross.

The ruling party has denounced the protests as "nothing short of rebellion."

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday called for calm, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the U.S. condemned reports that Burundi's government has moved to restrict Internet and social media access. She said the U.S. is deeply troubled by the arrests of hundreds of protesters.

"Today we see a Burundi seized by fear and at severe risk of deadly violence," Power said in a statement. "But today we also see a Burundi that still has the time and means to correct course and get back on the path of progress."

Power said the U.S. is ready to "take targeted measures, including by denying U.S. visas," against anyone who plans or carries out violence against citizens.

Nkurunziza first came to power in 2005 after being voted in by lawmakers. He then ran unopposed and was re-elected in 2010. His supporters say he can run again because for his first term he was elected by lawmakers, and was not popularly elected.

More than 20,000 Burundians have gone to Rwanda and at least 4,000 more are in Congo, fearing violence, according to the U.N.

More than 250,000 people died in Burundi's civil war between Hutu rebels and a Tutsi-dominated army. The war ended in 2003.


Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, and Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed to this report.