Burundi: African countries call for election postponement

The summit also called for the urgent disarmament of all youth factions allied to political parties.

African heads of state during the East African Community(EAC) Summit held in Tanzania. Picture: GCIS.

PRETORIA - Burundi's neighbours have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza not to hold elections in the great lakes country later this month.

The heads of state of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, which together with Burundi and Rwanda form the East African Community (EAC) common market, attended the summit. They were joined by South African President Jacob Zuma.

"The summit called for a longer postponement of elections in Burundi for a period not less than one and a half months," said Richard Sezibera, the secretary general of the EAC.

They have also called for an end to the violence caused by Nkurunziza's determination to run for an unconstitutional third term.

The leaders had previously called for the vote to be postponed, to create the right conditions for voting, but to be held within Nkurunziza's current mandate that ends in August.

Nkurunziza, who faced a coup attempt while in Dar es Salaam for the first summit on 13 May, did not attend the meeting. He was represented by the country's foreign minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe.

Rwanda also sent a minister rather than the head of state, a Tanzanian foreign ministry official said.

The summit also called for the urgent disarmament of all youth factions allied to political parties in Burundi.

Nkurunziza's ruling CNDD-FDD party's youthwing, the so- called Imbonerakure, has been accused of carrying out some of the violence that has rocked Burundi for weeks.

"The leaders have been trying to navigate our way so we can help the people of Burundi to land safely under the current circumstances," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told a news conference after the summit.

Nkurunziza's decision to run for a third term unleashed Burundi's worst political crisis since an ethnically-driven civil war ended in 2005. The president's supporters say a constitutional court ruling allows him to run again.

In the Burundian capital Bujumbura, low-key protests took place on Sunday in some suburbs of the city including Cibitoke, Buterere and Mutakura. One person was injured late on Saturday when a grenade exploded in the city centre.

Rights groups say at least 20 people have been killed by police since protests began. There are fears violence could lead to renewed ethnic bloodletting between the Hutu and Tutsi communities.

More than 90,000 Burundians have fled the country, according to new figures from the UN's refugee agency UNHCR.

They have headed to Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, which shares a similar ethnic mix and suffered a genocide in 1994 in which 800,000 people were killed.

Additional information by Reuters