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Burundi VP Blasts President's Bid for Third Term as ‘Illegal’

FILE - Burundi's second vice president, Gervais Rufyikiri, is seen taking a question during a press conference.

Burundi's second vice president has fled the country and denounced President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to extend his stay in power.

Gervais Rufyikiri told France 24 television on Wednesday that he is against what he called the president's "illegal third term."

The president's media adviser, Willy Nyamitwe, sent out a Twitter message saying, "Goodbye and good riddance is the refrain of the song in my heart."

The second vice president is believed to be in Belgium. The president's office told VOA that Rufyikiri went there on a mission a couple of days ago.

VOA reporter Edward Rwena, who is in Burundi's capital, says the country's first vice president, Prosper Bazombanza, remains in the country.

Nkurunziza's bid for re-election sparked violent protests in the capital, Bujumbura, triggering a failed coup attempt last month.

Critics say he is violating a two-term limit in the constitution and the accords that ended Burundi's civil war. Burundi's constitutional court said the president is eligible because he was elected by parliament, not voters, for his first five-year term in 2005.

In Washington, Burundi's foreign minister, Alain Aimé Nyamitwe, told VOA that the president's critics were wrong.

"I believe that it is not correct to say that the president would intentionally want to plunge the country into chaos," Nyamitwe said. "The man has been at the helm of the nation since 2005, and since he came to power, we all know and history has recorded that he has pacified the country, put the country together, has modernized the country, has spearheaded reform."

The presidential election is now scheduled for July 15, after being postponed because of the protests.

More than 100,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries because of the unrest.