Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third term in office suffered a new blow on Saturday after it emerged a top a election official had fled the country. Sources said the election commission’s vice president, Spes Caritas Ndironkeye, jetted out of the crisis-hit central African nation late Friday, leaving behind a resignation letter and preparations for next week’s parliamentary elections in disarray. A second election board member is also thought to have fled, reflecting mounting unease with the country’s power structure over Nkurunziza’s attempt to stay put despite worsening civil unrest. Human Rights Watch said Burundi has been gripped by “pervasive fear”, while the International Crisis Group, a conflict-prevention think tank, said Burundi was headed back into conflict unless the president backed down.
An electoral commission source said Ndironkeye “left without saying goodbye, without saying where she was going.” A second member of the five-person commission, Illuminata Ndabahagamye, is also thought to have fled, sources said.
“What has happened is a catastrophe, but it was inevitable,” another commission source said. “Technically, the Election Commission can continue to work with four out of five members. But if two have left, no decision can be taken and it will be impossible to replace them before June 5,” the source said.