Two Dead at Start of Burundi’s Unpopular Presidential Election

HEAD PROTECTION: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives by bicycle to cast his ballot at a polling station in his home village of Buye in Ngozi province, northern Burundi. A former sports teacher, ex-rebel, born-again Christian and football fanatic, Nkurunziza has divided the central African nation over his bid to secure a third term in office in elections held yesterday (PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Moore/AFP)
HEAD PROTECTION: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives by bicycle to cast his ballot at a polling station in his home village of Buye in Ngozi province, northern Burundi. A former sports teacher, ex-rebel, born-again Christian and football fanatic, Nkurunziza has divided the central African nation over his bid to secure a third term in office in elections held yesterday (PHOTO CREDIT: Phil Moore/AFP)

A policeman and an opposition official died in violence marring the start of Burundi’s presidential election yesterday held amid protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term and an opposition boycott.

Blasts and gunfire echoed around the capital of Bujumbura in Burundi’s worst crisis since a civil war ended in 2005.

Dozens have been killed in weeks of demonstrations, a failed coup and clashes between rebel soldiers and the army.

Voters queued outside polling stations in some rural areas and districts of Bujumbura that are strongholds of Nkurunziza supporters. In other areas there were only trickles of voters.

Opponents accuse Nkurunziza of violating the constitution by seeking another five years in office, but Nkurunziza, sure to win given the boycott, cites a court ruling saying he can run again.

Western donors and African states, worried about tensions in a region with a history of ethnic conflict, urged Burundi to postpone the poll. The US and European states have halted some aid to Burundi.

Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe said one policeman and a civilian had been killed in overnight violence.

“People do it to intimidate voters. They don’t want the voters to go to the polls,” he said.

Flanked by bodyguards jogging alongside him, Nkurunziza cycled to a polling station in his home village of Buye, which was also filled with soldiers.

The president queued to cast his ballot, and told reporters the election was to “allow the Burundian people to choose someone they believe in.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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