Tensions rise in Burundi ahead of May 26 polls

By Desmond Kokim

Posted on April 16, 2015 08:37

Burundi’s ruling party has been accused of arming its youth wing as tension worsens in the East African country ahead of presidential elections where President Pierre Nkurunziza could run for a contentious third term.

Nkurunziza’s has not come out clearly whether he will contest the May 26 polls but the country is already on the edge following indications he may run for another term.

The main opposition Alliance of Democracts for Change (ADC) says the president’s National Council for the Defence of Democracy – Forces for Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) has been arming its youths as it spoils for a fight.

CNDD-FDD’s youth wing known as Imbonerakure or “those that see far” has been implicated in attacks against opposition party supporters in the past.

Observers say the arming of the Imbonerakure is a threat to a peace accord that ended Burundi’s civil war in 2005.

The opposition says CNDD-FDD is arming the Imbonerakure to terrorise the electorate ahead of the polls.

Those opposed to a Nkurunziza third term say it would be in violation of the peace deal that ended fighting between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

However, the government has ignored requests from various organisations, including the United Nations (UN) office in Bujumbura, for an investigation into the allegations by ACD.

Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005, and has denied arming the CNDD-FDD youth wing.

He accused the opposition of trying to discredit the CNDD-FDD.

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has urged Nkurunziza’s government to ensure the May 26 vote is free and fair.

“(Ban) expressed his concern about the rising political tensions in the country and encouraged Burundians to resolve their political differences through dialogue and without resorting to violence,” Burundi’s Interior minister Edouard Nduwimana, told reporters.

Memories are still fresh in Burundi of the 1993-2005 conflict that killed more than 200,000 people.

Significant gains have been made since the Arusha Accord was signed in 2000 but the current tensions could derail the country’s progress.

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