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Burundian Spokesman: US ‘Not Well-Informed’ About Crisis

Demonstrators, protesting President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term, block a road in the village of Rwenza near Bujumbura, Burundi, May 5, 2015.

A senior advisor to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said the government believes the United States is not well-informed about what is happening in Burundi. Willy Nyamitwe, senior presidential advisor on media and communications, accused the U.S. of meddling in Burundi’s internal affairs. Burundi has been rocked by violent protests since the ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated Nkurunziza to stand for a third term in the coming June 26 presidential election. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that Nkurunziza could run for a third term.

Acting U.S. Deputy State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Tuesday the United States believes the only way to respect both the terms of the Burundian constitution and the Arusha agreement is for Nkurunziza not to seek a third term.

Nyamitwe said the ruling party believes Nkurunziza has the right to seek another term.

“The ruling party believes and it’s convinced that the incumbent president has the right to run again because this doesn’t violate our constitution. According to Article 96, the president of Burundi is elected through universal suffrage and can run for two mandates. But, our president has been elected through universal suffrage in 2010 because, in 2005, he had been elected by a colleague of PMs (members of parliament),” he said.

Meanwhile, protesters Monday clashed again with police leaving at least three dead. Dozens of people, including police officers, have been hurt.

Nyamitwe said the protesters should use legal channels to address their concerns and not engage in violence.

“Whoever thinks that this [third term] violates the constitution, there is a way to refer their case to the Constitutional Court, not to take the way of violent protest, because what is happening in Burundi is not a peaceful protest but a violent protest,” Nyamitwe said.

He denied the military had deprived Burundians of their rights to gather peacefully and political parties and candidates to campaign.

“We have our own laws and one who violates the law has to be banned. So, those protesters were violent. They have been burning tires, barricading roads and injuring policemen,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Nairobi this week, said the decision by Nkurunziza to seek a third term violates Burundian laws.

Nyamitwe said no government or institution can impose itself in the internal affairs of another country.

“In Burundi, we believe that maybe the United States officials are not well-informed about what is happening in Burundi,” he said.

The spokesman said the crisis can be resolved through dialogue among political parties and civil society groups.

“I think the only solution remaining is to put Burundians again into a dialogue to see how they can sort out their internal affairs peacefully, not violently,” He said.