Pre-election violence claims lives in Burundi

62

The Burundi government said it killed at least 22 “wrongdoers” in hills overlooking Bujumbura since last week, in what it called violence linked to a May presidential election.

Two policemen were killed and six attackers captured.

The clashes erupted after local residents alerted police to the presence of gunmen hiding in coffee plantations in Nyabiraba district, a local administrator told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Police said fighting spread to neighbouring Isare district.

“Wrongdoers took advantage of this electoral period thinking people are distracted,” police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said on the state broadcaster RTNB. “The population should remain calm as security officers ensure security.”

Burundi, with a similar ethnic composition to neighbouring Rwanda, suffered decades of ethnic and political violence, including a 1993-2005 civil war in which 300 000 people, mostly civilians, died.

The May election will choose a successor to President Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader in power since 2005. His three terms in office have seen sporadic violence and international accusations of human rights abuses, which government denies.



In the election, the ruling CNDD-FDD candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, a retired army general who heads the department of military affairs in the president’s office, will face former rebel leader, Agathon Rwasa, of the opposition CNL party.