Burundi Urged To Delay Elections
East African leaders have urged Burundi’s president to postpone elections due in June.
They have also called for an end to the violence sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third term.
Their statement was made after a summit of the East African Community in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam.
A coup attempt against Mr Nkurunziza failed earlier in May and some 90,000 Burundians have fled the unrest.
“The summit, concerned at the impasse in Burundi, strongly calls for a long postponement of the elections not less than a month and a half,” said the statement on Sunday.
The leaders also called for the “disarmament of all armed youth groups” and for the “creation of conditions for the return of refugees”.
Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba told AFP news agency that the government welcomed the statement and was open to idea of delaying the elections.
But he said that the issue of whether the president should stand for a third term had not been discussed at the conference and that the Burundian government therefore considered the matter to be “closed”.
Opponents to Mr Nkurunziza have called for people to return to the streets.
Protest leader Pacifique Nininahazwe, as quoted by AFP, said on Sunday: “We are disappointed because the summit said nothing on the question that we are concerned about.”
“We are going to stage even bigger demonstrations than we have done so far in order to get Nkurunziza to leave office,” he added.
There have been weeks of protests since Burundi’s 51-year-old president announced that he would run for re-election.
Opponents have said this contravenes the constitution, which states a president can only be elected to two terms.
But Mr Nkurunziza argues that he is entitled to another term because he was first appointed by parliament in 2005.
The country’s constitutional court has upheld his interpretation. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 5 June and the presidential poll for 26 June.
The summit was attended by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. They were joined by South Africa’s Jacob Zuma.
Mr Nkurunziza did not attend. His spokesman said that he would be pushing forward with his election campaign instead.
Earlier in May, he survived a coup attempt after attending a regional conference in Tanzania.
The coup was launched by Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former ally of the president.
Rights groups say that at least 20 people have died in protests since the president announced on 25 April that he would seek a third term.
The UN says more than 90,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries fearing political violence.