Burundi postpones parliamentary polls to early June after unrest

World Today

Demonstrators face off with police in the Musaga neighborhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, Wednesday May 20, 2015. Police returned to the neighborhood in full force Wednesday, firing live rounds and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting the president’s decision to seek a third term. ( AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Police shot in the air to disperse protesters in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, on Wednesday after the country’s president signed a decree to postpone parliamentary elections for a week, from May 26 until early June.

Police shot tear gas canisters and live bullets, some from belted machine guns, and mostly in the air, in the unrest hotspot of the Musaga, a neighbourhood of Bujumbura, as unrest continued over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.

Army personnel remained in the area, but did not intervene.

One Burundi army officer says police killed a soldier who was trying act as a buffer between police and protesters who are against the president’s bid for a third term. The army has remained largely neutral in the street battles between the police and protesters.

Captain Dismas Nduwamungu told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the soldier was part of a group of army troops trying to stop the police from firing at protesters who were throwing stones. He said the soldier was hit in the chest and died. Nduwamungu says another soldier was wounded in the leg.

The parliamentary elections will be held on June 5, according to the decree signed on Tuesday, according to the president’s media adviser.

The decision to delay the elections followed a request from the election commission, opposition politicians and the international community, according to the adviser.

Protesters argued that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term was illegal because the constitution only allows two five-year terms.

The constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms, but Nkurunziza maintained he could run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first one.

The postponement came after a failed coup last week, which was triggered by weeks of unrest over Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.

At least 15 protesters have died since the protests began more than three weeks ago when the ruling party announced Nkurunzinza would stand for another term.

Story by the Associated Press