Tensions simmer after polling ends in Burundi

Polling ended after a night of gunfire & explosions that claimed two lives in Bujumbura.

Members of Burundi’s Independent National Electoral Commission count votes at a polling station at the University of Burundi in Bujumbura on 21 July, 2015. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA/BUJUMBURA - Tension grips Burundi after low numbers of voters turned out in a process designed to give President Pierre Nkurunziza an unconstitutional third consecutive term in power.

Blasts and gunfire echoed around the capital early on Tuesday in a nation grappling with its worst crisis since a civil war ended in 2005.

It has faced weeks of demonstrations, a failed coup and clashes between rebel soldiers and the army.

Polling ended after a night of gunfire and explosions that claimed two lives in the capital Bujumbura.

Casting his ballot yesterday, Nkurunziza said Burundians have to allow choosing the programme that suits them best.

His is the only one on offer because the opposition has boycotted the election.

Opponents accuse Nkurunziza of violating the constitution by seeking another five years in office.

Western donors and African states, worried about tensions in a region with a history of ethnic conflict, urged Burundi to postpone the poll.

The United States and European states have halted some aid to Burundi, one of the world's poorest nations.

Nkurunziza, almost sure to win given the opposition boycott, cites a court ruling saying he can run again. The government said they had already delayed the vote as long as they could and promised a fair poll.

Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe blamed opponents and those behind protests for overnight violence, saying a policeman and a civilian were killed. "People do it to intimidate voters. They don't want the voters to go to the polls," he told Reuters.

Residents in Nyakabiga district, where the civilian's body was discovered, identified the man as an official in the opposition MSD party and accused the government of killing him.

A police source confirmed the victim was part of the opposition.

"We see the shooting last night as a kind of intimidation," said 32-year-old Desire Kabaya in Nyakabiga.

"There will be chaos after this election because the government that will follow will not be recognised by all the people."

Diplomats and experts fear a slide into a deeper conflict drawing recruits from those who feel protests and an election boycott have not delivered political change.

Nearby, angry residents blocked one of the main Nyakabiga roads with stones. A group of women chanted "we need justice and truth" near the body before the Red Cross took it away.

The US State Department has joined critics saying the disputed election lacks credibility and will discredit the government.

The US says it's reviewing all aspects of its partnership with the east African country including imposing visa restrictions on those it says are responsible for promoting instability.

Additional information by Reuters