Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in office on Friday after the opposition boycotted the vote, a victory that leaves the east African nation politically divided and facing international isolation after months of unrest. Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term plunged Burundi into its biggest crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005. The opposition says Nkurunziza’s bid violated the constitution and could spark another conflict. Major donors United States and the European Union, both critical of Nkurunziza, have threatened measures from cutting aid to imposing sanctions after Burundi went ahead with an election they said could not be free or fair.
The ruling party of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has swept to an expected overwhelming victory in controversial parliament elections that were boycotted by the opposition, according to official results released Tuesday. The opposition had argued that weeks of protests and a violent crackdown by security forces meant free and fair elections were impossible, and the United Nations said voting took place amid “a climate of widespread fear and intimidation”. The country has also been left without most of its independent media outlets, after several radio stations were attacked and destroyed in fighting during an attempted coup against Nkurunziza in May.
Burundi opposition leader Agathon Rwasa said a presidential election must be held by August at the latest, but a fair vote was unlikely without security and a free media. A planned June 26 poll looks increasingly untenable after more than a month of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. Parliamentary and local elections have already been postponed due to the unrest in which more than 30 people have been killed, according to activists. Burundi emerged from an ethnically fuelled civil war in 2005, and the crisis has stirred fears of a new bout of violent instability in Africa’s Great Lakes region. The country has a similar ethnic make-up to neighbouring Rwanda, where 800,000 people died in a 1994 genocide.