Burundi's presidential election has been postponed by nearly a week after United Nations and African officials warned the vote could spark more violence in the already tense country.
A decree signed by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Saturday rescheduled the vote from July 15 to July 21.
Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third five-year term sparked a failed coup attempt in May and weeks of violent protests. Critics of the president say he is violating term limits established by the constitution and the Arusha Accords that ended Burundi's 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005.
The United Nations' deputy political chief warned Thursday that “Burundi is on the brink again," and said the country faced grave danger because Burundian leaders were putting personal interests before those of the country.
The five-nation East African Community, which had been trying to mediate the disputed elections, had called for a two-week postponement to allow time for additional talks between Nkurunziza’s ruling party and opposition parties.
Meanwhile, government forces have clashed with gunmen in a wooded area on the central African nation's border with Rwanda. The governor of Kayanza province, Canisius Ndayimanisha, said the gunmen crossed from Rwandan territory — an unconfirmed allegation, but one that could fan fears of a widening conflict.
On Friday, the U.S. expressed concern about reports of fighting in Burundi and recently broadcast remarks by Burundians threatening to use force against the government.
The State Department said in a statement, "We strongly oppose any armed activity or incursions into Burundi and will seek to hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights abuses."