Explosions rock Burundi capital as deadly protests continue


Two explosions shook Burundi’s capital on Friday but no one was hurt, police and a witness said, as deadly unrest against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office rumbled on.

Pictures circulated on social media showed three charred vehicles in front of a KCB bank branch in downtown Bujumbura, until Friday an area largely free from the demonstrations that erupted on April 26.
“We don’t know the cause of the explosion yet,” said a police officer who had visited the scene of the first blast. There were no casualties reported.

In late afternoon, a second explosion rocked the same area, close to the post office, a witness said, adding there were no casualties.

But a demonstrator was killed in Buterere suburb, where police clashed with protesters who say Nkurunziza’s bid to contest the June 26 presidential poll violates the constitution.

A Reuters photographer in the area saw police fire at demonstrators who were hurling rocks at them. In the flashpoint suburb of Cibitoke, police shot at rock-throwing protesters and then used a bulldozer to clear street barricades.

The demonstrations, which began a day after Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term, have kindled the biggest political crisis in Burundi since an ethnically-charged civil war ended in 2005.

The government has called the protests an “insurrection” and linked them to a failed coup by elements of the army in mid-May. Nkurunziza’s backers point out that Burundi’s constitutional court has cleared the president to seek another term.

Many fear the violence, if left unchecked, could reopen ethnic rifts and lead to another round of bloodletting between the Tutsi and Hutu communities.

Tensions have put the region on the edge. In neighbouring Rwanda some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in the space of few months during the 1994 genocide.

On Thursday the European Union and Burundi’s influential Roman Catholic Church pulled out from observing elections, saying that next month’s vote could not be fair because of daily unrest and a crackdown on media. The presidency said local and parliamentary elections would go ahead on June 5.

Said Djinnit, the U.N. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, said the government and opposition on Thursday afternoon resumed peace talks which the opposition had boycotted since last weekend, when one of their leaders was murdered.

However, with both sides some way apart in their demands, the talks were put on hold until after east African leaders meet in Tanzania on Sunday in a special summit on the Burundi crisis.
“The summit (will be) good to provide important guidance to pursue talks,” Djinnit said.