Elections set to begin in Burundi July 15 have been pushed back to July 30, following violent protests throughout the capital city of Bujumbura in the central African nation. The protests, which have led to clashes between civilians and police, have bubbled since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third, consecutive five-year term which many claim is unconstitutional.
Tensions have been high in the country since April when Nkurunziza first announced he would run. Nkurinziza said he is allowed to run for a third term since he was appointed, not elected, to his first term; protestors say a third term would be unconstitutional. The controversy reached a fever pitch on July 7 when Nkurinziza's ruling party won the parliamentary elections that had been boycotted by opposition parties, suspecting the elections would not be conducted fairly. Nkurinziza's CNDD-FDD party won 77 out of 100 parliamentary seats, Agence France-Presse reported.
In a report to the UN Security Council on Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein relayed the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Burundi. So far, at least 70 people have been killed during peaceful protests and more than 145,000 people have fled the country. He warned that Burundi is on the brink of "devastating violence," saying that Nkurinziza's decision to run again has "undermined a decade of steady progress in building democratic institutions, and precious gains in the sense of a common national community."
Many in Burundi that fled in the past weeks feared the eruption of ethnic violence similar to what occurred during the country's 12-year civil war that ended in 2005. Like the Rwandan genocide, Burundi's civil war was fought between the Hutu majority ethnic group and the Tutsi minority who had been the leaders of the military. During the civil war 300,000 people in Burundi were killed.