Burundians vote Thursday in a referendum that could keep the president in power until 2034 and threatens to prolong a political crisis that has seen more than 1,000 people killed and hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighboring countries. Many in this East African nation do not see a positive outcome no matter the results of the vote, which President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government forced through despite widespread opposition and the concerns of the United States and others warning of continued bloodshed. The country descended into crisis in 2015 when Nkurunziza pursued a disputed third term. Now Burundi’s 5 million voters are asked to approve a change to the constitution that would extend the length of the president’s term from five years to seven and would allow him to stand for two more terms after his current one ends in 2020. Nkurunziza has forcefully urged voters to support the referendum.
“Whoever opposes this election will meet God’s power,” the president warned earlier this month while campaigning.
Tensions are even higher after unidentified attackers armed with machetes and guns carried out a massacre Friday in the rural northwest near Congo, killing 26 people, many of them children. The government blamed a “terrorist group.”
While it is not clear whether the attack was linked to Thursday’s referendum, it was “a very dangerous development,” United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said Tuesday.
Full Article: Fearing bloodshed, Burundi faces vote on president’s power.