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Calls for Peace Grow in Burundi as Talks are Suspended

Worshipers attend Sunday service in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 19, 2015.
Worshipers attend Sunday service in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 19, 2015.

Burundians gathered in churches for Sunday services across the country, just two days before the country's presidential election in the hope there will be no electoral related violence. But talks between Burundi's political parties were suspended Sunday after government representatives failed to attend.

In Musaga, one of Bujumbura neighborhoods the worst hit by weeks of deadly protests since April, worshipers were singing Sunday at a Catholic church. Today roads are open and many people are in the streets, but there is fear among the people that government informers and officials might be monitoring their activities and what they say.

Resident Ndemesha Emery tells VOA many people have fled to Tanzania and Rwanda.

He says that those who remain in Bujumbura still hear the sounds of gunfire and grenades. He says they live in fear.

Local university student Ange Mahoro says the church has urged the creation of a peaceful environment so refugees can come home.

Mahoro says there is no peace in Burundi that would make people want to return.

The United Nations estimates more than 140,000 refugees have fled due to the increasingly political tense situation in Burundi.

U.N. monitors have also documented cases of torture and ill-treatment in detention, as well as dozens of killings of demonstrators and human rights defenders by members of the Imbonerakure militia group and security forces.

Regional bloc the East African Community appointed Ugandan president Yuweri Museveni to facilitate a political dialogue in Burundi before presidential elections scheduled on Tuesday.

On Saturday, three more candidates withdrew from the race, including former president Domitien Ndayizeye.

He told VOA the current security and political situation does not allow for free, fair and peaceful elections to take place in Burundi.

"The people are not free election cannot be credible in the circumstance that is why we have said let us talk and let us agree on a calendar in which we can organize credible elections," he said. "The government did not accept and we have decided to take off our candidacy.”

In a decree signed by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on July 11, he rescheduled the presidential vote from July 15 to July 21.

The opposition politicians say they will not give up on asking for more negotiations to unlock the political crisis that has rocked their country since the president announced his desire to run for the top job for a third term in April.

Critics say President Nkurunziza must go after serving the two constitutionally-allowed terms. But Burundi's's constitutional court has ruled he is eligible for a third term because he was chosen by lawmakers, and not popularly elected, for his first term.