Accessibility links

Labari da Dumi-Duminsa

Burundi Holding Parliamentary Elections Despite Boycott

FILE - Burundi's second vice-president, Gervais Rufyikiri, is seen taking a question during a press conference.
FILE - Burundi's second vice-president, Gervais Rufyikiri, is seen taking a question during a press conference.

Burundi is going ahead with parliamentary elections Monday despite an opposition boycott and criticism from the United Nations and African Union questioning the free and fair nature of the vote.

African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma expressed concern about what she called "the serious political and security situation" in Burundi and said AU observers will not participate in Monday's elections.

She said the AU, U.N. and regional bodies had called on Burundi to delay the vote until July 30 along with the presidential vote now set for July 15, but that the government has not accepted. She said Burundi is at a "crucial phase of its history" and that the political turmoil has "serious implications for peace and security" in the country and the region.

President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term in office triggered a failed coup last month and continued criticism from those who say he is violating the two-term limit in the constitution. Burundi's constitutional court has ruled he is eligible because he was first elected by parliament, not voters, in 2005.

The tension has sparked violence, particularly in the capital, Bujumbura, where witnesses said Sunday two people died from overnight clashes. The unrest has also forced more than 100,000 Burundians to flee to neighboring countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Burundi's leaders Sunday to think of the broader interests of the country's people "and to resolve political issues through dialogue in order to preserve peace and strengthen national reconciliation."

Ban expressed concern about Monday's election as well as strong disapproval for the lack of progress by Burundian parties to agree on a path for "free, fair, inclusive and peaceful elections."

Meanwhile, parliament head Pie Ntavyohanyuma said he has fled to Belgium due to the violence, saying he fears for his life after opposing President Nkurunziza's decision to run for office.

Several top officials, including Deputy Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri and members of the election commission and constitutional court, have also fled for the same reasons.

Burundi's second vice president, Gervais Rufyikiri, has fled the country and denounced President Nkurunziza's bid to extend his stay in power.

The second vice president is believed to be in Belgium. The president's office told VOA that Rufyikiri went there on a mission a few days ago.

VOA reporter Edward Rwena, who is in Burundi's capital, said the country's first vice president, Prosper Bazombanza, remains in the country.