Gunfire and explosions could be heard late Monday in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, on the eve of the country’s presidential election. The unrest comes amid tensions over incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid for a third term over objections by protesters and opposition politicians, who say he is flouting a constitutional ban. Witnesses in the capital’s northern Ngagara suburb said assailants had shot at police officers, who returned fire, while journalists from French news agency AFP heard three loud explosions and regular bursts of gunfire, though they could not say where the sounds were coming from. Explosions and shots were also heard in Nyakabiga, northeast of Bujumbura, and Kanyosha to the south, according to local residents.
Earlier on Monday, an unknown attacker threw a grenade in the city’s central Independence Square. It remained unclear if there were any casualties.
Prosper Ntahorwamiye, spokesman for the Electoral Commission, said he expected high turnout among the country’s 3.8 million eligible voters. He said improved safety, especially in the capital, has encouraged those who fled the violence of the past months to return.
The UN Refugee Agency, however, has announced that it has not seen any of the 170,000 Burundians who left their homes for fear of election-related turmoil return to the country.