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Burundi’s president says will not seek re-election, easing unrest fears

Pierre Nkurunziza had been widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution to stand for two more terms.

FILE: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. Picture: AFP.

BUJUMBURA - Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza promised on Thursday not to seek re-election when his term ends in 2020, easing fears of fresh violence in the impoverished country.

Nkurunziza had been widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution to stand for two more terms - raising concerns Burundi could see a repeat of the unrest that erupted after he stood for the third time in 2015.

But he told a ceremony: “I wish to inform Burundians and the world that I will not change what I said. My term is ending in 2020.”

“This constitution was not modified for Pierre Nkurunziza as the country’s enemies have been saying. It was amended for the good and better future of Burundi and the Burundian people,” he added in the speech broadcast on the state RTNB television station.

Last month voters in the small central African nation approved changes to the constitution that also extended the length of a presidential term from five to seven years. The opposition said the vote was marred by intimidation and fraud - a charge the government denied.

Burundi has been gripped by violence and lawlessness since Nkurunziza’s opponents took up arms against him, protesting against his move to stand for a third term in 2015. He stood and won re-election in the same year.

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