Soldier killed as Burundi hit by more violent protests

May 1, 2015 7:25 am
Burundian riot police at a protest in Musaga, on the outskirts of Bujumbura, on April 29, 2015/AFP
Burundian riot police at a protest in Musaga, on the outskirts of Bujumbura, on April 29, 2015/AFP

, BUJUMBURA, May 1- A Burundi soldier was shot dead by an intelligence officer while at least nine protesters were hurt in renewed clashes in the capital over a bid by the president to stand for a third term.

The soldier died and a civilian was hurt when the intelligence officer opened fire near a barricade erected by protesters in Bujumbura, said a senior police officer speaking on condition of anonymity.

The officer was “at a spot where the demonstrators had built a barricade. He felt threatened. He shot and hit a soldier who was killed”, said the source, describing the shooting as “an unfortunate incident”.

The unrest broke out after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate in the next presidential election, which is due to be held in the small central African nation on June 26.

Opposition figures and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s attempt to stand for a third consecutive term goes against the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

The situation is “very dangerous”, senior US diplomat Tom Malinowski said Thursday, warning that Washington could impose targeted sanctions if Nkurunziza refuses dialogue.

The United States was “clear” in its opposition to the president running again, added Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.

The Red Cross reported that nine protesters had been hurt in the Bujumbura clashes, and confirmed before the soldier’s death that the overall toll from days of violent protest stands at six dead.

Three were killed on the first day of protests on Sunday — when police were accused of firing on demonstrators — and three later that night in an alleged attack by ruling party militia forces.

The nine people wounded on Thursday included several who suffered gunshot wounds, Burundian Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza said. A military source confirmed that police had again fired on groups of demonstrators.

Authorities on Thursday closed university accommodation and forced thousands of students to leave their campus, witnesses said, apparently in a bid to halt the wave of protests.

Large numbers of students, many of whom come from rural areas, could be seen evacuating the University of Burundi in the capital, after the government order was issued overnight.

The authorities have already cut mobile access to several social networks and messaging applications including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, which have been used to coordinate protests.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian from the Hutu majority, has been in power for two terms since 2005.

His supporters say he is eligible to run again, since his first term in office followed his election by parliament — not directly by the people as the constitution specifies.


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