Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza defies EU and US

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has rejected EU and US calls to delay controversial elections set for June.

Burundi President Pierre Nkurinziza signed the press law last year
Burundi President Pierre Nkurinziza 

He told the BBC that such a move would plunge Burundi into a deeper crisis.

At least 18 people have been killed in protests against his bid for a third term and more than 50,000 have fled to neighbouring states.

Belgium said it was suspending nearly $6m (£3.8m) in aid to Burundi, as the EU and US warned that credible elections could not be held by June.

Last week, African Union (AU) commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma also said the climate in Burundi was not conducive for elections.

Appeal for calm

Mr Nkurunziza told the BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza that the protests against his third-term bid had been orchestrated by “outside forces” and the deaths were regrettable.

Burundi’s opposition and civil society groups insist that Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid is unconstitutional and he should step down.

But the president argues his first term does not count as he was appointed by parliament, not directly elected by the people. Last week, the constitutional court backed this interpretation.

Mr Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has ruled Burundi for nearly 10 years.