Burundi protesters defy government as Belgium cuts election cash
Protesters in Burundi on Monday defied government orders to end demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid for a third term Monday, as Belgium suspended key funding for the elections.
Hundreds of opposition supporters demonstrated on the streets of the capital Bujumbura, despite the security services ripping down barricades set up during days of protests.
At least 19 people have been killed, including protesters and police, and scores have been wounded since late April, when the ruling CNDD-FDD nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election, triggering daily protests.
Belgium, the former colonial ruler, said Monday it had suspended aid to the electoral process in Burundi, withholding two million euros ($2.2 million) of backing. The first half of the aid, another two million euros, has already been paid.
Belgium, the biggest bilateral backer of Burundi, has also halted support for a police mission in the country, Belgium’s international development ministry said
Development Minister Alexander De Croo “believes that in the current circumstances the payment of the remaining tranche of two million euros must be suspended,” the statement said.
It cited the fact that the EU’s electoral mission in Burundi had said last week that “conditions for free elections have not been met at the moment”.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority who has been in power since 2005, has come under intense international pressure to withdraw from next month’s election and stand down.
-Petrol bombs thrown at bus –
The latest confrontations between demonstrators and security forces in parts of Bujumbura came after a one-day “truce” declared by protest leaders on Saturday allowed a semblance of normality to return to Bujumbura.
While the main barricades have been removed, opposition supporters set up “checkpoints” to stop people going to work.
“We continue our demonstrations to prevent Nkurunziza having a third term,” said Joseph, a 43-year-old protester.
In one district, a gang of some 20 men hurled petrol bombs at a bus, but no one was hurt.
Nkurunziza has ignored protests and international pressure, and on Friday was the first of eight candidates to register for presidential elections due on June 26.
Among them was Nkurunziza’s strongest challenger, Agathon Rwasa, who called for delaying the elections citing the current insecurity.
Despite the unrest, campaigning for local elections due to be held on May 26 officially began on Sunday.
East African leaders are to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis on Wednesday in Tanzania.
The constitutional court has found in favour of Nkurunziza, saying his first presidential term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
The court’s vice-president, however, fled the country after refusing to sign the judgement, claiming judges had been subjected to death threats.
Over 50,000 Burundians have fled the country in recent weeks, with at least half of them going to Rwanda.
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