Hundreds of people in Burundi have protested the incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s renewed nomination for a third term in office. Police fired tear gas to break up the crowds, two protesters were killed.
Police in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, used water cannon and tear gas on Sunday to disperse protesters. Witnesses claimed that the police had also used live ammunition in places, with protests taking place in multiple parts of the capital.
News agency AFP cited witnesses as saying that two protesters were shot dead by police, one in the city’s Ngagara district and the other in Musaga. A Red Cross official also told Reuters that two people had been killed.
Police sought to contain the crowds, with the demonstrations outlawed ahead of the announcement
Local media reported that several more were injured, while Reuters carried a story saying at least one police officer was also hurt.
“We had called for peaceful protests and that is what happened, but the police and ruling party militia fired real bullets at the protesters,” said a Burundian opposition leader, Frodebu Leonce Ngendakumana.
Two terms, or two elected terms?
Watchdogs and observers had warned of unrest if President Nkurunziza was nominated for a third term – in a country with a constitutional two-term limit for its leaders. However, Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party argues that the president is allowed a third term as popularly elected president, because he was voted in for his first term by parliamentarians. The constitution states the president is elected for a five-year term that can be renewed only once.
Is a term a term for Nkurunziza, if the parliamentarians, not the people, voted him in?
Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana condemned the protests as an “uprising called for by certain politicians and civil society,” also saying the demonstrations were illegal, because the government had banned protests either for or against the renewed nomination of the president.
“We have asked whoever is against the third term to follow legal procedures. Only the Constitutional Court can judge if Nkurunziza has the right to run or not,” he told Reuters.
Burundi is scheduled to hold presidential elections on June 26.