Burundi says citizens helping fund polls, hopes donors will too

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 08, 2015 10:44 AM

By Clement Manirabarusha

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi's government has received donations from citizens to help fund the presidential polls and other elections and hopes Western donors will reverse a decision to halt election aid to avert more chaos, the presidential spokesman said on Monday.

Gervais Abayeho said the government had earmarked its own election funds and guaranteed voting would go ahead before Aug. 26, the end of the current term of President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose bid for a third mandate has led to protests.

For more than a month, demonstrators have clashed with police, saying the president is violating the constitution by running. Nkurunziza says a constitutional court found he could run, a ruling Abayeho said meant any debate was now "closed".

The European Union, Belgium and the Netherlands suspended some aid last month to support the elections, which have been delayed although new dates have yet to be set. Diplomats said unrest meant the conditions were not right for a fair a vote.

“We believe this was a very harsh decision," Abayeho said of the aid suspension. "We hope it will be reviewed."

"If there are no elections here, the country will sink into chaos. There will be lawlessness, there will be no elected institutions. What would happen here would be even worse than what they are imagining now," he said.

Although protests have subsided in recent days, Burundi is facing its worst crisis since the end of an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.

That conflict pitted majority Hutu rebel groups, including one led by Nkurunziza, against an army led by minority Tutsis. The latest tensions worry a region with a history of ethnic conflict, particularly Rwanda, victim of a 1994 genocide.

The government of Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations that has earmarked 44 billion Burundi francs ($29 million). "If that is not enough, Burundi will knock on other doors," he said, without citing other donors.

He said the government had received donations after an appeal to citizens in Burundi and abroad, without giving figures.

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"The elections will take place," he said. "That is guaranteed, because Burundians are contributing now, Burundians from inside and outside the country."

An election commission is reviewing the timetable, looking to delay a series of votes that had included a parliamentary election on June 5 - already delayed once - and a presidential poll on June 26. It has not given a new dates yet.

A group of 17 opposition parties said on Monday it was committed to dialogue to resolve the crisis but said they were committed to continue the political fight to ensure Nkurunziza quit. Another round of U.N.-sponsored talks between the two sides was due to be held later on Monday.

(Writing and additional reporting by Edmund Blair; m Editing by Angus MacSwan)