Burundi's first vice president has said his government respects the agreement signed to bring stability to the country 10 years ago following a civil war. The comment comes amid protests in the capital against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to seek a third term. Government critics have insisted the president leave office.
Meeting opposition groups, diplomats and African Union representatives, Vice President Prosper Bazombaza said his government respects the Arusha accord that ended the war. The vice president also said he supports the rule of law.
"The concern surrounding the candidacy of the president of the republic in the elections of June 26, 2015, the leaders of the opposition and civil society are calling for the respect of the Arusha agreement for peace and reconciliation and the establishment of the Republic of Burundi. We would like to reiterate, once again, that the government of Burundi is strongly attached to these references," he said.
Bazombaza did not explain how his boss respected the signed agreements, but called on protesters to also respect the same laws they are yearning for.
"If we stick to the claims of the protesters they argue that the application of the president of the republic violates the constitution and the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation that protects the constitution. Consequently, it is self-evident that their actions should respect the same pieces of legislation that they put forward," said Bazombaza.
The government said Tuesday it is willing to release more than 600 protesters arrested since last week on condition they stop the demonstrations.
UN voices concern
The United Nations' special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, Said Djinnit, voiced concern about the situation becoming worse.
"The violence that we have seen for days in some areas of Bujumbura, it's attracting a lot of worries and apprehension in Burundi, in the region and beyond. More than a decade of stability, nobody likes to see this country again with the disastrous effects of division and violence," said he.
Djinnit has called on all the parties to reject violence and avoid using inflammatory words that could increase the tension.
Former interim president Domitien Ndayizeye noted that before it was easy to negotiate with armed men and convince them they can be part of the political system.
He says if President Nkurunziza is allowed to run again for the third term, nothing will stop him from doing so again in the future.
"In Africa, many presidents in Africa want to go on, so I am afraid that if today we agree him to go on with this mandate, in 2020 he will ask again to run. So I am very afraid of that so it’s very necessary to stop him just now go on the way it was agreed on Arusha agreement and the constitution," said Ndayizeye.
Protesters blocked the road to the hotel where the politicians, diplomats and AU representatives were meeting. They chanted slogans and called for the president not to run again. At times police felt helpless.
VOA saw one police officer calling for calm and requesting the protesters to not block the roads and stay away from the road that leads to the hotel.
Protesters and the police had a deal not to cross each other's territory and maintain the peace.
Protests were still ongoing in some parts of the capital, Bujumbura, as political leaders met to discuss ways to end the escalation of violence and bring normalcy to the smallest nation in East Africa.
On Monday, three protesters were killed and dozen more wounded when police opened fire on marchers in suburbs of the capital.
Demonstrators in Burundi have vowed to continue with their protest until President Nkurunziza abandons his plan to run again for the top job.