By Patrick Nduwimana
BUJUMBURA – Protesters took to the streets in Burundi for a second day on Monday after activists said at least five people were killed in unrest a day earlier triggered by the president’s plan to run for a third term, a move critics say violates the constitution.
“The fight continues,” protesters chanted in the Musaga district of the capital Bujumbura. A Reuters witness saw about 200 people demonstrating and tyres being burned.
Protesters say President Pierre Nkurunziza broke the constitution and the Arusha peace agreement, which limits the president to two five-year terms, by saying on Saturday he would run again in the June 26 vote. His supporters say his first term does not count as he was picked by lawmakers, not elected.
Prominent activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa said at least five people were killed in the capital on Sunday, three of them in protests and two more in an attack by the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing.
Police and officials had no immediate comment. The ruling CNDD-FDD party has repeatedly denied charges that its youth wing is armed and trying to cause violence. The head of police was expected to hold a news conference later in the day.
A Reuters witness said the army had been deployed on the streets and now outnumbered police. Activists, who also reported the army deployment, said this could help calm the situation because the army was widely seen as a more neutral force.
“The military are aware that we are going to hold protests, but have warned us that they should remain peaceful and that’s all we are asking for,” activist Mbonimpa said by phone.
Diplomats and opponents say the police are seen as more aligned to the ruling party, a charge the party denies.
Bob Rugurika, another activist and director of private Burundi radio station RPA, said his station and two others had been stopped from broadcasting in the countryside, where much of Nkurunziza’s popular support is based.
Thousands crossed the border to neighbouring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the days leading up to Nkurunziza’s announcement and afterwards, fearing violence. Officials said more than 20,000 were now in Rwanda.