Burundi president registers as candidate despite protests

AP News
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Posted: May 08, 2015 3:22 PM
Burundi president registers as candidate despite protests

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Burundi's leader registered Friday as a presidential candidate with the country's electoral commission, despite nearly two weeks of deadly street protests in the capital opposing his bid to seek a third term.

Amid international alarm over the growing unrest in the central African nation, a U.N. envoy suggested that conditions were not right for an election. The United States said it was prepared to take "targeted measures," including sanctions, against those who linked to the violence.

At least 13 people have died and 216 have been wounded in protests since April 25, when the ruling party announced it had nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate. Protesters pelted police removing barricades from roads on Friday, but the army moved in and contained the violence.

Burundi's June 26 election should go on because most of the country is peaceful, Nkurunziza told reporters after submitting his documents Friday to the electoral commission. Still, more than 50,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries fearing violence ahead of the elections, the U.N. refugee agency said.

The U.N. Security Council called for an end to the violence, the need for a credible electoral process and freedoms of opinion and assembly, the council president, Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, told reporters after a closed-door discussion of the crisis.

Speaking to the council, U.N. envoy Said Djinnit indicated that "conditions are not ripe for elections, and that on the ground there were discussions of moving election" to a later date, Murmokaite said.

With Russia calling the situation in Burundi a local matter, however, it's not clear what action the council can take.

But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power told reporters the U.S. welcomes an African Union statement that said Nkurunziza should not seek a third term, and the U.S. is "prepared to take targeted measures, including visa bans or sanctions, against those who plan or participate in widespread violence."

"There is no disagreement about the need for the council to do all in its power to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control," Power said.

Rwanda has the largest number of Burundi refugees with 25,000, followed by Tanzania with 17,696 and Congo with 8,000. Some refugees said they left Burundi because of harassment and intimidation by pro-government militia.

Some opposition groups, government and religious leaders pledged to seek a peaceful solution through U.N. mediation. The Security Council backs the negotiations, Murmokaite said.

Nkurunziza's supporters say he is eligible for a third term because in his first term he was selected by parliament, not elected. Protesters want Nkurunziza to drop his re-election bid, saying it's illegal.

Burundi's Constitutional Court has validated the president's bid for a third term but the deputy president of the court, who fled to Rwanda ahead of the ruling, said the court had been pressured to do so.

"We must underscore the apparent lack of judicial impartiality that led to this decision," Power said.

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Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.