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Grenade Blasts After One-Man Presidential Vote in Burundi

  • Michael Onyiego

After a period of calm during a controversial one-candidate presidential vote, violence has resumed in Burundi, as the country continues its months-long series of elections.

According to police, a series of grenade attacks in the capital, Bujumbura, and other parts of the country wounded two people just hours after the polls closed Monday in Burundi's presidential election.

According to Human Rights Watch researcher Neela Ghoshal, the violence is partly the result of police inaction during attacks before a May election. Ghoshal said the violence is likely to continue unless the authorities take real action.

"The problem is that we still have a country in which there are major problems affecting the security sector and policing," Ghoshal said. "What we have seen in the post-election context is similar to what we have seen in the pre-election context which is that the authorities have not been able to prevent this violence from happening and now what is in question is how will they respond to it. We believe that, probably, the impunity that we saw during the pre-election violence, nobody has been prosecuted for that violence. In a post-election context when people are not happy with the results, violence becomes again likely."

There were grenade attacks killing at least 10 people and wounding at least 50 others in Burundi right after the municipal elections on May 24. Controversy erupted almost immediately as the electoral commission announced that President Pierre Nkurunziza's party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy, had won more than 60 percent of the available seats.

The announcement was greeted by disbelief and accusations of fraud from opposition parties. The electoral commission, receiving backing from European Union observers, rejected the charges, but could not prevent the other six candidates from withdrawing from the presidential race.

Shortly before the vote, leading challenger and candidate for the Forces of National Liberation Party, Agathon Rwasa, reportedly went into hiding for fear of arrest. Rwasa, who is believed to have fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, confirmed his fears Tuesday through a recorded message delivered to a local radio station.

The presidential election was the first held in the country after a peace agreement ended more than a decade of civil war in 2005. Violence surrounding the polls has now dashed the hope of stable democracy after years of struggle.

Preliminary results from the presidential election are expected Wednesday. Burundi will hold two rounds of legislative elections on July 23 and 28 followed by village elections September 7.