Burundi police open fire on protestors as truce ends
An AFP reporter saw at least eight people with bullet wounds after running battles with the police, who also fired tear gas and hurled stun grenades in a bid to disperse the crowds.
Witnesses reported other protestors were shot, with police apparently giving no warning before opening fire. Officers were also wounded by rocks thrown by protestors.
The small central African has been rocked by a series of violent protests after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian from the Hutu majority, as its candidate in presidential elections due to be held on June 26.
Following two days of truce over the weekend, a few hundred protesters gathered in a suburb of the capital Bujumbura Monday, shouting at police, who have for days blocked roads to prevent demonstrators from moving into the centre of the city.
“I am killed by Nkurunziza!” one screamed, as he was taken to hospital with bullet wound in his shoulder.
One group however broke through and reached the centre, the first time they have managed to do so since protests began, but were chased out by police.
Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005. His supporters, however, say he is eligible to run again, since his first term in office followed his election by parliament — not directly by the people as the constitution specifies.
– Tensions within army –
“Let us through!” demonstrators shouted, as soldiers sought to ease tensions between the police and demonstrators.
Since the protests started, the army has regularly come between the police and demonstrators to avoid further clashes and the protesters believe the soldiers are neutral.
At least 10 people have died and scores more have been hurt since the protests began last weekend. Nearly 600 people have also been arrested, according to police.
“We have two camps fixed in their positions – and no one is willing to back down,” said a diplomat.
The government linked a grenade attack that killed three people, including to police officers, in the early hours of Saturday to the opposition protests and branded the demonstrators “enemies of the state”.
It has also vowed a major crackdown, with the security minister saying the police will @do everything to stop this uprising”.
However, Nkurunziza’s bid to hold on to power has both supporters and opponents within the security services.
“There are some pretty serious differences within the security forces,” added the diplomat.
On Sunday, the army’s chief of staff pledged the military’s loyalty to the country’s authorities after the defence minister had declared the army’s neutrality.
General Prime Niyongabo said the military “remains and will remain a republican and loyalist army that is respectful of the laws and rules of Burundi and of those who govern it.”
But a statement by Defence Minister General Pontien Gaciyubwenge on Saturday declaring the army’s neutrality and calling for an end to attacks on citizens’ rights appeared to flag up possible divisions in the army.