East African leaders have once again asked Burundian leader Pierre Nkurunziza to postpone the general elections, saying the current political environment characterised by violence, intimidation and suppression of dissent cannot allow the conducting of free and fair election.
This was during an Emergency Summit on the Political Situation in Burundi in Dar es Salam, Tanzania attended by Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Jakaya Kikwete, Jacob Zuma and Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We have asked the Burundi government to postpone elections by a period not less than a month and a half, during which time it should create a conducive environment for the process,” said Kenyatta at the end of the conference.
“We also called for the immediate disarmament of all youth groups affiliated with political groups. We urged the Burundi political leadership to exercise restraint and to ensure the right environment for refugees who fled the conflict to return home,” he added.
It was earlier thought that the leaders would take a tougher stance on Nkurunziza considering that tens of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi to neighbouring countries as refugees.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report last week that the Burundian authorities should call a halt to the crackdown on peaceful opponents and critics; order the police to stop using excessive deadly force, investigate the deaths and beatings of protesters at the hands of police, and hold those responsible for excessive force to account.
Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said interviews with medical personnel and other sources, since demonstrations began on April 26, 2015, indicate that at least 27 people have been killed or died from wounds inflicted during the demonstrations.
It remains to be seen if Nkurunziza will allow the postponement of the polls amid growing unrest over his third term bid.
Uhuru on Sunday night said, “The Parliament of Burundi must play a bigger role in creating a conducive environment for the democratic process,” adding, “We expressed our solidarity with the people of Burundi and we respect their right to participate in a democratic process.”
Nkurunziza snubbed the Summit. Officials said he was busy campaigning for the third term.
According to Kenyatta, EAC leaders urged “all other bodies involved in resolving the crisis to cooperate with the EAC leaders to achieve the goal of creating a peaceful environment for Burundian to exercise their rights.”