Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza remained defiant as he launched his re-election campaign Thursday in front of thousands of cheering loyalists, even as there were more calls to delay parliamentary and presidential elections.
Also Thursday, second vice-president Gervais Rufyikiri, who fled the country to Belgium, urged Nkurunziza to withdraw his presidential bid because “it violates the constitution.” He accused the president of leading the country on the path of illegality.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place June 29, followed by president vote on July 15.
Pascal Nyabenda, chair of the ruling CNDD-FDD party said calls for a dialogue and delay of the election are a disguise by the opposition to achieve their goal of a transitional government.
He said only Burundian courts can interpret the country’s constitution, not outsiders.
“The election for the 29 [June] will be held and our party, the CNDD-FDD party will take part,” he said.
Nyabenda said the elections cannot be postponed because that would violate Burundi’s constitution which mandates that the president-elect be sworn in by August 26.
“When we have some institutions which would be over after the 8th July, how can they say that we should postpone the election? That is their way to get to the transitional government, and it is just to lie to the international community say that they want a dialogue because they need transitional government,” Nyabenda said.
Opposition groups in Burundi had said that President Nkurunziza’s re-election bid was unconstitutional and violates the Arusha Peace accord which ended Burundi’s 13-year civil war in 2006.
“The constitution is for Burundians; who else can interpret our constitution? It’s only our courts, not any other person,” Nyabenda said.
Also Thursday, about 200 Burundian students who had camped near the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Bujumbura, sought refuge inside.
“When you talk about students who don’t want election, what do you mean? It’s very funny to talk about students who don’t want election. What do they represent in our country? Which percentage do they represent?” he said.
In his letter Thursday to the President, second Vice President Rufyikiri accused Nkurunziza of pushing Burundi into a “real socio-economic crisis”.
Nyabenda said Rufyikiri fled the country because he wanted to be president but was rejected by the ruling party congress.
“He was expecting to be the president, but our party chose President Nkurunziza to be the party candidate. So maybe he was frustrated because of that,” he said.
Nyabenda said also said Rufyikiri had gone back to his children in Belgium where he holds another nationality besides his Burundian nationality. He said the Burundian constitution permits dual citizenship.