Burundi's president Pierre Nkurunziza wins third term in disputed election

Leading opponent Agathon Rwasa refuses to recognise result in vote condemned by US, UK and human rights groups after weeks of violence

Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has won a predictable landslide victory in a disputed election marred by violence and an opposition boycott.

He is set to serve a third five-year term after taking 69.41% of the vote, 50 percentage points ahead of his leading opponent, Agathon Rwasa. Britain, the US and others have condemned the election as not credible due to the harassment and intimidation of the opposition, rights activists, journalists and voters.

The country was plunged into turmoil in late April when Nkurunziza launched his drive for a third consecutive term, triggering widespread protests and a failed coup attempt in May. Burundi’s constitution stipulates that a president can only serve for two terms, but Nkurunziza’s party said he was eligible for another term as popularly elected president because he was elected by lawmakers for his first.

Three of Nkurunziza’s seven opposition candidates formally boycotted the vote, while Rwasa said he would not recognise the result.

Nkurunziza’s campaign created a dangerous split between his supporters and opponents in a country that has suffered two genocides and a 13-year civil war in the past half-century.

In recent months, violence has been meted out by those on both sides of the political divide. During the past six weeks, grenade attacks have been near-nightly occurrences. There was more violence in the capital, Bujumbura, on Wednesday and Thursday.A brutal police response put down street protests that erupted at the end of April across Bujumbura. In a report released this week, Amnesty International said: “Treating largely peaceful demonstrators and entire residential areas as part of an insurrection was counter-productive and escalated rather than defused protests.” Demonstrators have said that with no peaceful means of expressing themselves they were forced to turn to violence.

Whether Burundi will accept the vote remains to be seen. More than 167,000 people have fled the country since April. A number of dissident army generals, journalists, opposition politicians and members of the president’s CNDD-FDD party who opposed Nkurunziza remain in exile.

Pierre-Claver Ndayicariye, the head of the national electoral commission (Ceni), was upbeat on Friday. Announcing the results, he said: “These presidential elections are a critical step for the population and the international community.

“I have always thought that the elections the Ceni is organising will not resemble those of Gabon, Mali, Nigeria, even less those of France, the US, Cameroon or Belgium. They are elections organised in Burundi for Burundians by Burundians, with challenges that remain our own.”

Aimé Nkurunziza, a CNDD-FDD supporter in Kamenge, a party stronghold, said: “We hope the opposition will come back so we can start to build a better Burundi.

“The opposition doesn’t need to be abroad, where they keep on saying something is wrong in Burundi, trying to cut off aid. By getting the international community to cut off aid, they’re killing those of us left in Burundi,” he said, referring to the threat of international sanctions and funding cuts.


Jessica Hatcher in Bujumbura

The GuardianTramp

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