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East African leaders to meet over Burundi crisis

Burundi's president Pierre Nkurunziza/FILE

Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza/FILE

BURUNDI, Jul 3 – East African leaders are to meet on Monday in the latest bid to resolve the political crisis in Burundi, after controversial elections were internationally condemned for not being free and fair.

More than 70 people have been killed in more than two months of protests and a failed coup attempt sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s defiant bid for a third term, with almost 144,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring nations.

“Heads of state will make an assessment of the situation in the country,” said Owora Othieno, spokesman for the five-nation East African Community (EAC).

Parliamentary and local elections were held on Monday despite an appeal by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to postpone the polls after months of turmoil.

The UN electoral observer mission said in a report late Thursday that the elections took place “in a tense political crisis, and a climate of widespread fear and intimidation”.

The meeting will be held on July 6 in Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam, where two regional summits on the crisis have already been held.

During the first summit in May 13, a general staged a failed bid to unseat Nkurunziza while the president himself attended the talks.

Nkurunziza did not attend a second summit on May 31, and it was not immediatly clear if he would attend Monday’s planned meeting.

The results of the parliamentary polls have yet to be released, but former colonial power Belgium has said it will not recognise the outcome and the United States has also ratcheted up international pressure, calling for presidential elections on July 15 to be delayed.

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The EAC bloc includes Burundi, as well as Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

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