Burundi civil society lambasts Tuesday presidency polls
African Union, meanwhile, dispatches ‘rights observers,’ ‘military experts’ to crisis-hit E. African country

Burundian civil society groups have collectively announced that they would not recognize the results of the country’s controversial presidential polls, which were held on Tuesday amid ongoing political violence.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday night, Burundian civil society groups denounced the election, which, they asserted, had "violated the Arusha peace accords and Burundi’s constitution.”

The election is expected to give incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza a third term in office – despite the objections of the country’s opposition, which boycotted the poll.

According to the opposition, Nkurunziza lacks the right to seek a third term. They cite Burundi’s constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.

Opposition figures also point to the 2003 Arusha peace accords, which likewise called on signatories to keep presidential tenures confined to two terms.

On Wednesday, Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, head of Burundi’s official electoral commission, said that between 72 and 80 percent of Burundi’s roughly 3.8 million registered voters had cast ballots – a figure that will likely be challenged by the opposition and civil society groups.

Ndayicariye added that vote counting was currently underway and that final results would be announced on Friday.

In the joint statement issued by civil society groups, however, signatories asserted that the Tuesday’s poll had been conducted "without independent observers and without free media.”

The elections followed a night of electoral violence in which at least three people were killed, including two policemen.

Rights observers, military experts

Notably, a day after the election, the African Union (AU) Commission dispatched a number of "human rights observers” and "military experts” to troubled Burundi.

According to an AU source, the deployment had originally been scheduled for July 16 but was delayed due to visa issues.

"They are going [to Burundi] today,” the source told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, adding: "They got their visas yesterday.”

The decision to deploy the observers and experts was adopted at a June 13 AU summit held in Johannesburg.

According to an earlier statement issued by the AU Peace and Security Council, the rights observers are tasked with "monitoring the human rights situation on the ground and reporting possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

As for the "military experts,” the statement read, "they are responsible for verifying – in collaboration with the [Burundian] government and other stakeholders – the disarmament of militias and other armed groups.”

"Militias and other armed groups” likely refers to the supporters of a handful of Burundian generals who tried to oust Nkurunziza in May while the latter was in Tanzania to attend a regional summit.

After the failure of their coup attempt, the generals – led by Major-General Godefroid Niyombare – regrouped in next-door Rwanda, from where they have vowed to continue fighting the Nkurunziza regime.

The Burundian authorities, for their part, blame the Rwanda-based opposition for an armed attack that recently occurred in the northern Kayanza province.

And earlier this month, General Leonard Ngendakumana, a close associate of Niyombare’s, told a Kenyan television channel that his supporters were responsible for recent grenade attacks that have rocked the country.

Ngendakumana went on to vow to continue supporting armed resistance to the Nkurunziza regime.

Burundi has been rocked by opposition protests since April, when the ruling party named Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – its candidate for the presidency.

Since anti-Nkurunziza demonstrations erupted in April, over 100 people have reportedly been killed countrywide, while tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.

Last Modified: 2015-07-23 07:09:53
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