EU suspends Burundi electoral observer mission
The European Union says it is suspending its electoral observer mission to Burundi amid widespread protests in the country against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to secure a third term in power.
David Martin, the EU mission’s chief election observer, warned in a statement on Thursday that current conditions in the East African country would not allow for credible polls in June.
Martin added that the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini “has decided, with my agreement, to suspend the deployment of the European Union Election Observation Mission.”
This comes a day after Burundi’s main opposition parties ruled out the possibility of holding “peaceful” and “credible” elections.
“The country has sunk into a political and security mess which, in no way, can allow for peaceful, transparent, free or credible elections,” the opposition said in a joint statement on Wednesday, adding, “Having an election campaign or holding a vote is impossible.”
The president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) also said on Wednesday that “the predominant opinion” among the members was to postpone the polls.
Burundian protesters push over a container to block the road during a demonstration in the Buyenzi neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 26, 2015. (© AFP)
Raimonda Murmokaite, Lithuania’s UN ambassador, who leads the UNSC this month, said that the majority of the 15-member UN body believes that “elections were not possible to carry out in the present circumstances.”
The situation has continued to worsen across Burundi since opposition party leader, Zedi Feruzi, the head of the Union for Peace and Democracy (UPD) party, was shot dead along with his bodyguard while on his way home in the central district of Ngagara on May 23.
Parliamentary elections in Burundi are scheduled for June 5 while the presidential poll is to be held on June 26.
Several protest rallies have been held in recent weeks against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term.
Over 30 people have lost their lives in anti-Nkurunziza’s protest rallies, which broke out in late April, and intensified earlier in May when Major General Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief, staged a failed coup attempt.
The president’s opponents maintain that his attempts to win a third consecutive term in office breaches the constitution and the Arusha Agreements, which ended a 13-year civil war in 2006. The two documents limit the president’s stay in office to two five-year terms.
Nkurunziza, who has been Burundi’s president for two legal five-year terms, has rejected the claims, arguing that he can take part in the presidential race as his rise to power after the civil war did not come through direct votes.