US Challenges Burundi to End Protests Ahead of Poll

US Challenges Burundi to End Protests Ahead of Poll

Speaking after a meeting earlier on Thursday, a senior US diplomat urged President Nkurunziza to allow peaceful protests to go on.

"I explained the very serious concerns that the government of the United States has had, and going forward about the political process and tensions we have seen," said Tom Malinowski, US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

He also urged the government to allow space for opposition, press and the civil society.

He added that this will enable the ongoing democratic process to be legitimate, ahead of the June 26 presidential vote.

In an effort to control the widely disseminated images of tear gassed protestors and other abuses, the government banned demonstrations, deployed the army and shut down the main independent radio station, saying it was disrupting peace in the country.

On his part, President Nkurunziza said that the protests in the capital against his presidency were illegal, but added that the opposition would not be restricted


Fired tear gas and water canons

According to his spokesman Gervais Abayeho, political space would be respected and there is no restriction whatsoever to anybody who is engaged in political competition.

Abayeho said  that the rallies were illegal and that most parts of the country are peaceful.

On Sunday, thousands of angry Burundians filled the streets in the capital, Bujumbura, to protest against the move by the ruling party to put Nkurunziza back in office for one more term of five years.

According to reports, the protestors were attacked by police who fired tear gas and water cannons.

At least nine people were reportedly killed in the clashes with the police at Melee Street.

Burundian constitution allows just two terms for one to hold a presidential seat.

However, Nkurunziza, who came to power in 2005 after 12-year long civil war, has expressed interests of becoming the president for the third time.

By Musalia Wycliffe

Source: Reuters