The Catholic Church in Burundi has criticized upcoming elections, while the European Union’s election observers are downing tools until the situation improves. Fair elections are “impossible,” the opposition claims. The European Union suspended its observer mission in Burundi on Thursday because of the crackdown on the opposition and the media, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Thursday. The team, which the EU sent to Burundi over a month ago, can no longer fulfill its role of helping with “peaceful, credible and fair” elections, according to the EU’s top diplomat. “The election process continues to be seriously marred by restrictions on independent media, excessive use of force against demonstrators, a climate of intimidation for opposition parties and civil society and lack of confidence in the election authorities,” Mogherini said in a statement.
Violence broke out in Burundi late in April, after president Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, in a move his critic claim violates the constitution. A failed military coup seeking to oust Nkurunziza soon after only exacerbated the conflict. Some 25 people have died in the series of street protests; an estimated 200,000 Burundians fled the country in fear of possible escalation of violence.
The impoverished central African nation is inhabited by Tutsi and Hutu tribes, similar to neighboring Rwanda. Many observers fear that the current conflict could reopen the wounds of Burundi civil war, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives from 1993 to 2003.