Burundi capital quiet after night of heavy gunfire

Reuters News
|
Posted: May 21, 2015 3:03 AM

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - The capital of Burundi was quiet but tense on Thursday after a night of heavy gunfire, particularly in the restive neighborhood of Musaga, where residents spoke of running battles between stone-throwing youths and police.

Reuters reporters entering Musaga saw dozens of police armed with automatic rifles and tear gas launchers, as well as a handful of soldiers.

There were no signs of the crowds that have gathered early each morning for the last three weeks in the capital Bujumbura to demonstrate against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in elections scheduled for next month.

"There was shooting through the night. Tension was very high," 28-year-old Musaga resident Bosco, who did not want to give his last name, told Reuters.

It was unclear if there had been any casualties.

More than 20 people have died in nearly a month of unrest, including a failed military coup, but the major fear is the power struggle re-opening old wounds in a county with a long history of genocide and civil war between its Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

In a state television address late on Wednesday, Nkurunziza stressed the need for national unity, saying that Burundi's bloody past - including a civil war that ended in 2005 after the deaths of 300,000 people - could not be ignored.

"No Burundian wants to revive the tensions of ethnic division or any other nature," Nkurunziza, who has mixed Hutu-Tutsi parentage, said. "The blood that was spilt in the past has taught us a lesson."

He argues that his bid to extend his time in office does not break a two-term limit in the constitution, as his first term, in which he was appointed by parliament rather than directly elected, does not count.

(Reporting by Edmund Blair; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Dominic Evans)