UN declares Burundi elections not free or credible

July 3, 2015 5:01 am
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Staff from the independent national electoral commission count ballots in the Kinama neighbourhood in Bujumbura, on June 29, 2015/AFP
Staff from the independent national electoral commission count ballots in the Kinama neighbourhood in Bujumbura, on June 29, 2015/AFP
UNITED STATES, Jul 3 – Elections in Burundi that were wracked by violence and boycotted by the opposition were not free or credible, United Nations observers said Thursday, a day after clashes left six dead in the capital.

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 that the elections took place “in a tense political crisis, and a climate of widespread fear and intimidation in parts of the country.”

“Episodes of violence and explosions preceded, and in some cases accompanied election day activities, mostly in Bujumbura,” said the nine-page report.

The mission concluded “that the environment was not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections.”

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

Clashes in the capital Bujumbura on Wednesday left six dead in the opposition stronghold of Citiboke district, which has seen weeks of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule.

Police said a grenade was thrown at a police patrol, injuring two officers and triggering gun battles in which one police officer died.

Five others, described as members of an armed group, were killed, but witnesses said they were brutally executed by police.

An AFP reporter at the scene saw the six bodies, three of whom had bullet wounds to the head.

The elections Monday set the stage for the presidential vote, but US State Department spokesman John Kirby urged Nkurunziza to delay the polls.

He urged the president “to place the welfare of Burundi’s citizens above his own political ambitions and participate in dialogue with the opposition and civil society to identify a peaceful solution to this deepening crisis.”

“This solution should include the delay of the July 15 presidential elections until conditions are in place for free, fair and peaceful elections,” Kirby added in a statement.

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