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Burundi President Rejects Election Delay

  • James Butty

FILE - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza attends the opening of a coffee conference in the capital Bujumbura, Feb. 13, 2014.

FILE - Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza attends the opening of a coffee conference in the capital Bujumbura, Feb. 13, 2014.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has rejected an appeal from the European Union and the United States to delay the June 26 presidential election. Nkurunziza reportedly told the BBC that postponing the vote would worsen the situation.

Willy Nyamitwe, senior advisor to President Nkurunziza on media and communication, said delaying the election is a technical matter that must be managed by the electoral commission.

In addition, he said the election is a constitutional mandate and Burundi must be careful not to create an institutional vacuum.

“What you have to know is that this is a technical issue that must be managed by the electoral commission, not by the government. And sometimes we have to be careful because there may be an institutional vacuum and that is very dangerous for the country,” he said. “The major problem is when it comes to an institutional vacuum it’s very dangerous; it’s unconstitutional. So that’s why we have to stick on the constitution.”

The European Union said Monday that delaying the electoral timetable would help “calm the situation” in the country where there have been deadly protests since Nkurunziza announced his intention to seek a third term.

Burundi’s constitutional court ruled that Nkurunziza’s first term does not count because he was picked by lawmakers and not elected by voters.

Hundreds of opposition supporters Monday took to the streets in the capital Bujumbura in defiance of government orders to end their protest.

Nyamitwe said if Nigeria, which has been gripped by Boko Haram violence was able to hold its election on March 28 this year, then Burundi can also have its election.

“Let me recall that even in Nigeria where a significant portion of the north is in the grip of Boko Haram, elections were held. So compared to Nigeria, what is happening in Burundi is nothing, and it cannot prevent the holding of elections,” he said.

He said the protests in Burundi are limited to a very small part of the country, about one percent of the country.

East African leaders will hold an emergency meeting in Tanzania this Wednesday to discuss the Burundi crisis on Wednesday in Tanzania.

Nyamitwe said President Nkurunziza will attend the meeting.

He said the Burundian government is concerned about the tens of thousands Burundians fleeing into neighboring countries as refugees since the unrest began.

He said the government would do everything in its power to facilitate their return to participate in the election.

“The government of Burundi is concerned about the flow of refugees across the border, some of them because rumors spread by malicious people. But we can say that 5,000 have already returned back home and the government is encouraging others to come back; it will do everything in its power to protect them so that they can participate in this election,” Nyamitwe said.

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