Thursday, May 7, 2015

Burundi: Opposition leader arrested amid unrest

Burundian Police arrested an opposition leader Wednesday after he attended a meeting of foreign ministers from the East African Community who were seeking a solution to the unrest in the country, triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term.

Police failed to pull opposition leader Audifax Ndabitoreye from the meeting between East African Community foreign ministers and Burundi leaders at a hotel in the capital Bujumbura. Officers in plain clothes then waited for him outside the hotel. He first resisted being arrested, but later gave himself up to the police.

Police showed journalists a warrant of arrest for Ndabitoreye which said he was wanted for insurrection.

Protests have rocked Burundi's capital since the ruling party announced on April 25 that it had nominated Nkurunziza as its presidential candidate.

Ndabitoreye said intervention by the East African Community was late.

"They should have come a long time ago. Everyone knew the situation was getting worse... You have a government militia that terrorizes people," he said.

Whether he himself is dead or alive the protest movement will continue, Ndabitoreye added.

"I know behind me there are thousands, millions of Burundi citizens who believe things will change, who know in their flesh things must change," he said.

Foreign ministers from East African Community nations travelled to Burundi Wednesday to help seek a solution to the problems. They included ministers from Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, said Edwin Limo, a spokesman of Kenya's foreign ministry.

In Bujumbura, roads were barricaded with trees as protests continued for a second week. In the Kinondo area of the city, police fired shots into the air to disperse demonstrators who had been staging a sit-in.

Vladimir Monteriro, a U.N. press officer in Bujumbura, said a U.N.-facilitated meeting between the government, the opposition and civil society started Tuesday.

Burundi's Constitutional Court on Tuesday validated the president's controversial bid for a third term but the deputy president of the court, who fled to Rwanda ahead of the ruling, called it unconstitutional.

Jean Minani, an opposition party leader, said the opposition will use all peaceful means to ensure that Nkurunziza does not contest in the elections because it's unconstitutional.

Burundi's constitution says the president is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years, renewable only once.

Nkurunziza was first installed as president in 2005 by Parliament to lead a transitional government. He won the 2010 presidential election as the sole candidate. Opposition members boycotted, saying they feared it would be rigged.

At least nine people have been killed in the protests and more than 20,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda, fearing political violence.


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