By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM – Protest organisers in Burundi urged African leaders meeting in Tanzania on Wednesday to demand that their president halt his bid for a third term, which has triggered the nation’s worst crisis since an ethnically-fuelled civil war ended in 2005.
Protesters have taken to the streets for more than two weeks saying Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for another five years violates the constitution and the Arusha peace deal that ended the civil war. Both documents limit a president to two terms.
More than 20 people have been killed since unrest erupted, according to an unofficial count by activists.
East African leaders and a top official from continental heavyweight South Africa met in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam to discuss the crisis that has already spilled over into a region with a history of ethnic conflict.
More than 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring states. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said the crisis was heading towards a “worst case scenario” that could see 300,000 people fleeing, some to other parts of Burundi and others abroad.
That would mean displacing about 3 percent of the 10 million-strong population in one of Africa’s most crowded nations.
“We expect the east African heads of state to tell President Nkurunziza that the constitution of Burundi and the Arusha peace agreement do not allow him to run for a third term,” Pacifique Nininahazwe, a civil society activist and protest leader, told Reuters.
Nkurunziza, 51, who once led a rebel group from the majority Hutu population against the minority Tutsi-led army in the war, has pointed to a constitutional court ruling that said his first term did not count as he was chosen by lawmakers, not voted in.