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Burundi Elections to Be Postponed After Weeks of Unrest

Gerard Nzohabona Thursday, June 4, 2015

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — Presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed in Burundi, an official said Thursday, following weeks of unrest in the capital over President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in office.

Presidential adviser for media and information Willy Nyamitwe said officials are waiting for a proposal from the electoral commission on the new dates for elections. Parliamentary elections were scheduled for Friday while presidential polls were slated for June 26.

Burundi's capital, Bujumbura, has been rocked by weeks of protests following the April 25 announcement of Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in office. At least 20 people have died in street battles with police. The protests gave rise to an attempted coup in mid-May which was crushed in 48 hours.

Regional bloc East African Community on Sunday asked the Burundian government to postpone elections for at least 45 days and to use the time to ensure that there is a conducive environment to hold the polls. More than 90,000 Burundians have fled the country fearing violence. Burundi has had a long history of political upheaval that has been characterized by political assassinations and coups.

Analysts say Nkurunziza's bid for a third term, despite the constitution's two-term limit, is not unique in Africa

"This is not an isolated incident, but part of a regional epidemic in which leaders would seemingly rather see their country burn, as opposed to stepping down from power in line with their own constitutions," said Jeffrey Smith, an official of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Some African leaders have been in power for decades after altering their countries' constitutions to extend their tenures. Burkina Faso's president of 27 years, Blaise Compaore, stepped down in October amid mounting opposition to his bid to seek yet another term in office.

Other African countries where leaders are suspected to be planning changes to their constitutions to extend their times in power include Republic of Congo, Congo, Benin, Uganda and Rwanda.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, 90, has been in power since 1980 and has altered the country's constitution and has been re-elected in polls widely criticized for rigging and violence.

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