East African leaders will hold a summit in Tanzania on Wednesday aimed at breaking the political deadlock in Burundi and ensuring the country holds peaceful elections, Tanzania’s presidency said.
Nineteen people have been killed in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, which opponents say violates the constitution and the peace deal that ended the civil war in 2005.
“We have agreed to meet to discuss how to help our brothers and sisters in Burundi to hold successful elections and ensure their nation is united, peaceful and secure without any unnecessary conflicts,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said in a statement late on Saturday.
The heads of state of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, which form the East African Community (EAC) common market, are expected to attend an extraordinary summit in Dar es Salaam.
Kikwete, who chairs the EAC, has sent a team of regional foreign affairs ministers on a fact-finding mission ahead of the summit.
In Burundi’s capital Bujumbura, hundreds of women took to the streets in protest against the plan by Nkurunziza to run for a third term.
“Women decided to stand up today to say no to the violation of the constitution,” said Beatrice Nyamoya, one of the protest leaders.
Burundi’s leading opposition figure, Agathon Rwasa, has asked the electoral commission to postpone a parliamentary election in May and a June presidential vote, saying it is not possible to hold peaceful and free elections.
The United States threatened sanctions on Friday on anyone involved in violence in Burundi against those protesting against the president’s bid for a third term and expressed alarm at the spread of weapons among youth militia loyal to the president.
More than 50,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled Burundi to neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the past month, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.