Burundi urges citizens to donate money to pay for elections

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2015 8:46 PM
Burundi urges citizens to donate money to pay for elections

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Burundi's government is asking Burundians to donate money to pay for elections as some foreign donors warn of aid cuts if President Pierre Nkurunziza runs for a third term, a presidential spokesman said Wednesday.

Demonstrators were in the streets again Wednesday, holding leafy tree branches as peace symbols, confronting soldiers and demanding that Nkurunziza withdraw from the elections.

Gervais Abayeho told The Associated Press that "a political vacuum in this country ... would be worse that a coup d'état," and that elections will happen whether or not Western governments help. He said the government has already set aside money for the June 26 elections but needs Burundians to give more for elections.

The president's effort to extend his stay in power has sparked almost daily street protests in which at least 20 people have been killed and at least 471 injured. An opposition party leader was gunned down on Saturday. The turmoil sparked a failed coup against Nkurunziza by some senior military officers.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council president said after an emergency meeting Wednesday that "the predominant opinion" of members is that Burundi's elections should not take place as scheduled in late June.

Lithuania's U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, who leads the council this month, said many members pointed to the unrest, tensions and flow of refugees in saying elections are not possible now.

The council heard a briefing by U.N. envoy to Burundi, Said Djinnit, who is trying to facilitate talks between the government, opposition parties, and religious organizations. France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters the talks haven't resumed.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete who chairs the East African Community which is holding a summit on May 31 on Burundi. Ban expressed hope that the regional leaders will help chart a way forward to end the political crisis, the U.N. spokesman said.

The controversy over elections led the presidency to call on its official Facebook page on Tuesday for "patriotic citizens" to donate voluntarily for elections.

Belgium has already cut funding to Burundi amid the unrest, and Abayeho said France and the Netherlands have also indicated some aid will be suspended if Nkurunziza persists with his controversial bid for a third term.

Burundi, a poor country which exports mostly coffee and depends heavily on foreign aid, experienced an ethnic-based civil war from 1993 to 2003 in which at least 250,000 people died.

Nkurunziza came to power in 2005 following the signing of the Arusha accords that ended the civil war, then was re-elected in 2010 unopposed after the opposition boycotted the elections. He maintains he is eligible for a third term because parliament elected him for the first term, and he was not popularly elected.

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Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations