Burundi’s presidential election has been postponed until 21 July, a presidential spokesman said on Saturday. The announcement came after African leaders urged a delay to try to stem escalating violence in a nation that emerged from civil war only a decade ago. Soldiers and unidentified gunmen clashed on Friday in Kayanza province, near the border with Rwanda. The governor of Kayanza, Canesius Ndayimanisha, said the gunmen had crossed from Rwanda, a charge denied by Kigali but which will fan fears of a wider conflict. Burundi’s army and the government in Bujumbura had no comment on the latest clashes, in which the governor said two soldiers and two gunmen had been hurt. “The situation is now under control,” Ndayimanisha said.
Burundi’s opposition is boycotting the election, saying President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term is unconstitutional. The announcement of his re-election bid in April triggered weeks. The president cites a court ruling saying he can run again.
Asked whether the election had been delayed, the presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho said Nkurunziza had signed a decree in response to a request from leaders of east African states and South Africa.
The African nations had sought a delay until 30 July to give the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, time to try to mediate between the opposing groups. Abayeho said such a delay “would be beyond constitutional limits”. The constitution requires an election is held at least a month before the end of the president’s term, which is on 26 August.