NewsEast & Horn AfricaGovernment, opposition violence escalates in Burundi


Posted on Monday, 09 November 2015 11:13

Government, opposition violence escalates in Burundi

By Desmond Kokim

Photo©ReutersTensions over the re-election ambitions of Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza have resulted in an arms race between opposition supporters and government forces, as violence escalates.

According to reports, Nkurunziza had called for citizens to turn in their weapons on or before Saturday November 7 and vowed that those who refused to surrender their arms would be "dealt with as enemies of the nation".

However, those opposed to Nkurunziza fled and continue to flee the country's capital city of Bujumbura and other parts of Burundi to avoid handing in their firearms.

Reports claim Burundi's security services have been carrying out house-to-house searches in neighbourhoods of Bujumbura seen as opposition strongholds.

Brussels-based International Crisis Group said some of the language being used by Nkurunziza's officials was "chillingly similar" to that used in Rwanda before the genocide of 1994.

Eyewitness accounts suggest the violence is fast becoming alarming. On Saturday, nine people were shot dead in a bar in Bujumbura.

Observers have also described the killings as revenge killings.

These developments have drawn condemnation from regional powers including Rwanda.

"People are being killed every day, bodies are found on the streets... Leaders are spending time killing people," Rwandan President Paul Kagame told reporters.

About 200 people have been killed since April when protests grew against Nkurunziza's third term bid.

Nkurunziza argued that his first term as president did not count towards the constitutional two-term limit, as he was chosen by lawmakers rather than by a popular vote.

In July, Nkurunziza was re-elected to a third term with 70% of the vote, and his government has been at war with people opposed to his re-election.

The UN has since condemned the "inflammatory rhetoric" by Nkurunziza's officials.

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