Army fires on Burundi protesters

New clashes erupted on Tuesday in Bujumbura between demonstrators and security forces.

Gilbert Bucyeyeneza, a local Journalist, who witnessed the clashes, said the army was using live bullets to disperse protesters.

“The army and police are getting out of hand,’’ he said.

Bucyeyeneza said protesters in the neighbourhood of Cibitoke carried placards that read “Army, don’t shoot your brothers and sisters,” after one demonstrator was shot.

He said that until recently, Burundi’s army was thought to support those protesting President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in the country’s June 26 presidential elections.

A soldier said on condition of anonymity, that the tensions escalated on the streets on Monday after Nkurunziza fired Gen. Pontien Gaciyubwenge, the Defence Minister who had encouraged the army to remain neutral during weeks of massive anti-government protests that killed at least 20 people.

He said it was so unfortunate now, because the army were now taking sides with the government, after the sacking of Gaciyubwenge.

Gaciyubwenge was replaced by Emmanuel Ntahomvukiye, a civilian who has not held a senior government post and seen by many as a Nkurunziza loyalist.

Meanwhile, an international summit for Africa’s Great Lakes Region, has called on President Nkurunziza to postpone legislative, local government and presidential polls scheduled to hold in Burundi in May and June this year.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the heads of state, who attended the summit, decided that the elections be postponed indefinitely until the country regained its stability.

Zuma made the statement on Tuesday at the end of the summit held in Luanda, Angola.

He said a delegation of heads of state from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa would visit Burundi to assist in peaceful resolution of the crisis.

He said the summit also decided that the conflict between the opposition and Nkurunziza should be settled peacefully.

Meanwhile, the EU, U.S. and East African Community, have voiced their support for the postponement of the elections.

The United Nations reported that nearly 105,000 Burundians have fled the violence to neighbouring countries with thousands seeking refuge in neighbouring Tanzania.

The World Health Organisation also warned that the country was at risk of severe humanitarian crisis, citing limited camping space, poor hygiene and lack of sanitation facilities and drinking water.


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