DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Elections in Burundi should be delayed by at least a month and a half and all violence must stop, East African leaders said Sunday after a regional summit on the crisis.
The leaders, however, stopped short of calling for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon his controversial bid for a third consecutive term, which has sparked weeks of civil unrest, a coup attempt and a refugee crisis.
“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,” the East African Community (EAC) said in a statement read out by its secretary general Richard Sezibera after the meeting of regional leaders in Tanzania.
The statement called “on all parties to stop violence,” for the “disarmament of all armed youth groups” – a clear reference to ruling party supporters accused of attacking opponents – and for “the creation of conditions for the return of refugees” who have fled the turmoil.
The crisis in Burundi erupted after the ruling party designated Nkurunziza, in power for 10 years, as its candidate for upcoming elections.
The opposition and rights groups say this violates the constitution as well as a 2006 peace deal that ended a 13-year civil war. READ: Burundi president won’t attend crisis summit.
The war left hundreds of thousands dead, and there are widespread fears that the current crisis could push the impoverished, landlocked country back into conflict.
Burundi’s government has insisted that parliamentary elections will take place on June 5 despite weeks of civil unrest that has left at least 30 people dead. The presidential election is scheduled for June 26.
The summit has been seen as an important opportunity to resolve the crisis, with talks between Nkurunziza’s camp and the Burundian opposition deadlocked.
However the leaders stopped short of telling the president to back down, only calling for a “return to the constitutional order” in Burundi.