Burundi’s President Nkurunziza defies third-term critics, officially launches his third-term bid

Burundi’s leader Pierre Nkurunziza has officially launched his third-term bid, defying criticism from the African Union (AU) and the US.

Pierre Nkurunziza, who has ruled for 10 years, handed over his papers at the electoral commission
Pierre Nkurunziza, who has ruled for 10 years, handed over his papers at the electoral commission

Mr Nkurunziza registered with election officials in the capital, Bujumbura, where widespread protests which have killed 18 people are continuing.

The head of the electoral commission has told the BBC the polls, due to be held in June, will not be postponed.

The unrest is the worst in Burundi since a civil war ended in 2005.

The UN said on Friday that more than 50,000 Burundians have fled their country since April because of fears over pre-election violence.

The head of Burundi’s electoral commission Pierre Ndayicariye told the BBC that there was “a tight electoral calendar” which needed to be followed, and urged those who have fled “to come back, because their vote is very important in ensuring a democratic Burundi”.

Burundi’s constitutional court ruled on Monday that Mr Nkurunziza can run for a third term.

The president struck a defiant tone on Friday, speaking after filing his candidacy.

“These demonstrations have turned into insurrection, but it is something that will be controlled… and I assure you that the elections will go well,” he said.

AU commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday that elections could not be held in Burundi in the current climate, and expressed doubts about whether the move was constitutional.

Last week, the US accused Mr Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, of violating the 2005 peace accord by seeking re-election.

Opposition and civil society groups insist that a third-term bid is unconstitutional, but the president argues his first term does not count as he was appointed by parliament, not directly elected by the people.

Mr Nkurunziza has ruled Burundi since the end of the 12-year civil war which killed about 300,000 people.