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Burundi Vote to Proceed Despite Opposition Withdrawal

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Protesters march who are against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term, in Bujumbura, Burundi, June 4, 2015.

FILE - Protesters march who are against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term, in Bujumbura, Burundi, June 4, 2015.

Burundi’s foreign minister says the decision of three opposition candidates to withdraw from the July 21 election is unlikely to affect the credibility of the presidential vote.

The opposition candidates include former presidents Domitien Ndayizeye, Jean Minani and Sylvestre Ntibantunganya. In a statement, the three candidates said the current political and security environment is not conducive to administer transparent, fair and inclusive elections.

Analysts say the withdrawal of the opposition presidential candidates could render the election, illegitimate. But foreign minister Alan Nyamitwe says the opposition leaders are welcome to participate in the vote.

“Nobody has asked them to withdraw. They are invited to participate, but it only an invitation ... [But] if they feel that their participation will change nothing as to their performance, then they need to find good excuses,” said Nyamitwe.

Nyamitwe says the reportedly suspended peace negotiations mediated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, aims to help ease tension before Wednesday’s presidential vote.

He says Museveni has urged all the stakeholders not to stop negotiations in an effort to resolve the political challenges the country faces.

“We believe the talks were aimed at helping the parties to find ways of reducing the tensions that some might find in the political atmosphere in the country,” said Nyamitwe.

“They key word for us is that we continue to negotiate, even with those issues we believe did not get the satisfaction of one side. There still are so many issues that need to be tackled which have not been resolved yet. But we do not lose hope we will continue to discuss those even after the elections.”

Following talks Thursday between representatives of the administration and oppositions groups mediated by Uganda’s Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, the government issued a statement saying the presidential election will proceed on the July 21 rescheduled date, despite the negotiations

That led opposition groups to charge President Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration has shown bad faith in the peace talks.

But Nyamitwe denied the accusation as without merit. He says the elections will proceed Wednesday to meet constitutional demands, adding the vote has previously been postponed twice.

“I don’t think if there is any candidate ready for an election that this date would be an issue. But we do not want to apportion blame here since it will not solve any issue, but we believe that those who are ready would still go for the elections on 21st of July,” said Nyamitwe.

“Do not forget that we also have a constitution, which sets the [election] deadline. The minimum that we can accept is the 26th of July because the constitution that provides that the [presidential] election has to take place maximum two months ... and minimum a month ahead of the tenure,” said Nyamitwe. “We also have to reserve some space for the poll run off. Don’t forget that we also need to reserve a period for petitions if there are any.”