Burundi is to postpone presidential elections by a month to July 26 with the backing of five East African Community (EAC) member states after weeks of unrest left at least 20 people dead. “Postponing elections for us is not a problem, but we won’t go beyond the limit accorded by the constitution,” presidential spokesman Willy Nyamwite said on the sidelines of an EAC summit in Dar es Salaam late Sunday. At least 20 people have died in unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza signaled he will run for a third term, a move his opponents say violates peace accords. At least 112,000 others have fled to neighbouring countries, fearing a return to conflict in a nation where 300,000 people died in a civil war that ended in 2005, according to the UN Humanitarian Agency.
Burundi had slated parliamentary and presidential polls for June 5 and 26, respectively. Nkurunziza’s second term, currently the maximum allowed by the constitution, ends Aug. 26. However, since the amendment limiting power to two terms was introduced after his first term, the president’s backers argue he can still serve another.
Leaders from from the EAC and South Africa also urged an end to violence and called for “urgent disarmament of all armed youths groups aligned to political parties in Burundi,” in a statement read out to delegates.
The bloc said it welcomed the “return to constitutional order” after Nkurunziza nearly lost power in an attempted coup by army generals, and urged Burundi to prepare for the return of refugees.