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Burundi Seeks Praise, Not Condemnation, For Holding Election

  • James Butty

President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives riding a bicycle, accompanied by first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, right, to cast his vote for the presidential election, in Ngozi, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives riding a bicycle, accompanied by first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, right, to cast his vote for the presidential election, in Ngozi, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

Burundi’s government thanked voters who participated in Tuesday’s presidential election, calling the vote vote peaceful, free and fair despite pre-election violence, an opposition boycott and international condemnation.

The United States Tuesday said the election could not be considered credible because the process was tainted by government harassment of the opposition and civil society members, the closing down of media outlets and intimidation of voters.

A U.S. spokesman warned the election risks unraveling the Arusha Agreement, which limits a president to two terms in office.

Willy Nyamitwe, senior advisor on media and communication to President Pierre Nkurunziza, said the government should be congratulated, not condemned, for holding the election. He said some countries do not even hold elections.

“In some other countries of the world, people are complaining saying that the governments are not organizing elections on time. But, here in Burundi, the government took the responsibility to organize election. So, I think we should be congratulated, not condemned,” he said.

Nyamitwe said the Burundian government could not have postponed Tuesday’s election beyond the constitutional limit.

Critics said Nkurunziza’s third term bid violates the constitution, but Burundi’s constitutional court ruled he is eligible because the first time he was elected it was by parliament, not the voters.

Nyamitwe blamed the opposition for pre-election violence, which he said was intended to intimate Burundians from voting.

“As you know, there are some opposition leaders who called on Burundians not to vote. So, since people wanted to vote, some others were just shooting to intimidate them. So, who’s responsible? Everybody knows its leaders of the opposition and some civil society activists who told the Burundians to refuse anything that comes from the government,” he said.

The African Union did not send observers, saying the election was not going to be free and fair.

Nyamitwe denied the government refused to give visas to an AU delegation, saying the organization should blame itself because it failed to submit its application on time.

“The government of Burundi gave them some small conditions for getting their visas. When they failed to drop their files to the embassy of Burundi to seek the visas, they cannot blame the Burundian government. They have to blame themselves,” Nyamitwe said.

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