Burundi sends college students home amid unrest

AP News
Posted: Apr 30, 2015 1:14 PM
Burundi sends college students home amid unrest

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi's national university was abruptly closed on Thursday amid protests in the capital that persisted with barricades burning in some neighborhoods.

Students could be seen heading home under police watch. At the Kiriki campus of the University of Burundi, some hopped into taxis and others carried mattresses and other belongings on their heads.

In the Musaga area of Bujumbura, protesters carried two birds with severed heads, an apparent symbol of defiance against the ruling party, which features an eagle on its emblem.

Bujumbura has been hit by street protests since Sunday as the security forces confront demonstrators who say a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza is unconstitutional. Nkurunziza was nominated by his party on Saturday to stand for June 26 presidential elections.

At least six people have been killed in clashes with the police, according to the Burundi Red Cross.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook having been blocked by authorities, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Washington has expressed disappointment over Nkurunziza's decision to seek another term.

Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, who traveled to Burundi on Wednesday, told reporters that the country's government had been warned of "real consequences" if the political crisis escalates.

"There is a tremendous amount at stake for the people and the government. We hope that cool heads will prevail," Malinowski said.

Many see Nkurunziza's decision to run again as a violation of the Arusha Agreements that ended civil war in the country. More than 250,000 people died in fighting between Hutu rebels and a Tutsi-dominated army. The war ended in 2003.