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Burundi President Demands Inquiry Into Killing of Opposition Leader

Relatives and friends gather around the covered body of Zedi Feruzi, the head of opposition party UPD, in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 23, 2015.
Relatives and friends gather around the covered body of Zedi Feruzi, the head of opposition party UPD, in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 23, 2015.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has called for a “quick” investigation into the assassination of Zedi Feruzi, leader of the opposition Union for Peace and Development (UPD), according to presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe.

Feruzi and one of his bodyguards were shot dead Saturday in the Ngangara district of the capital, Bujumbura, by unknown assailants in a drive-by shooting.

Some opposition and civil society groups have blamed Mr. Nkurunziza for Feruzi's death.

But, presidential spokesman Nyamitwe says the president and his ruling CNDD-FDD party are not responsible for the killing.

“He is very concerned by what is happening in the country and he is appealing to the population to remain calm to remain peaceful and to continue campaigning, but respecting other’s lives,” said Nyamitwe. “He is urging all the security forces and the justice to quickly [conduct] the necessary investigation in order to find out what happened and who the killers are in order for them to [face] justice.”

“[Feruzi was] killed in the suburb where these demonstrations are happening, a suburb where the police and the government don’t have free access… So if that crime happened in the country how can people come and accuse the government or claim that it is the ruling party or someone else?” asked the spokesman.

Before his death, Feruzi expressed concern about his safety following recent demonstrations against President Nkurunziza’s decision to seek re-election. At least 20 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and police.

Nyamitwe says the government provided security for the opposition leader. He says Feruzi was murdered in an area controlled by opponents of the administration.

“The government has condemned this crime, because this opposition leader was protected by bodyguards from the government,” the spokesman said.

“The tension [in the country] is brought in by those demonstrators, not from the ruling party or President Pierre Nkurunziza, because we do believe that it is right for the ruling party and its members to appoint who they want to as long as they don’t violate the laws and the constitution of Burundi to be the candidate of the presidential election of 2015,” he added.

Fearing for their lives, leaders of opposition and civil society groups have gone into hiding following the assassination of Feruzi.

Nyamitwe says government officials have held discussions with the secretary general of the East Africa Community as well as Tanzania’s minister for East Africa. The two East African officials are in Bujumbura to meet administration and opposition leaders and other stakeholders to help resolve the ongoing political crisis.

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