Voting in Burundi’s controversial elections opened on Monday despite a string of grenade attacks on polling stations, the latest in weeks of violence sparked by the president’s defiant bid for a third term.
Assailants threw grenades in both the capital Bujumbura and at some provincial voting centres ahead of Monday’s parliamentary and local elections, delaying the start of voting in many areas, police and election officials said.
Another grenade exploded in the capital shortly after voting began.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the elections to be delayed after the opposition said they would not take part, as Burundi faces its worst crisis since its civil war ended nine years ago.
“Armed groups tried to attack polling centres … they were shooting and threw grenades, but the police stopped them,” deputy police chief Godefroid Bizimana said.
The European Union condemned Burundi’s “grave” decision to hold elections, saying it would worsen the situation.
“The organisation of legislative elections… can only exacerbate the profound crisis which is gripping Burundi,” a statement Monday read.
Police patrolled the streets of Bujumbura, especially in opposition areas where the worst violence was seen during weeks of protests. In those areas, few civilians were seen at polling stations.
Stations for the parliamentary and local elections opened late in some areas, although election commission spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye insisted that, apart from some delays due to the violence, voting was “going well”.
“Voting has not yet begun in many centres in the capital because election officials are trying to prepare materials and in almost all of the stations, these arrived late because of the overnight attacks,” said election commission chief in Bujumbura, Cyriaque Bucumi.
On the eve of the election, top party official and parliament head Pie Ntavyohanyuma said he had joined some 127,000 other Burundians who have fled the country, denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s “illegal” bid to stay in power for a third term.
Burundi was plunged into turmoil in late April when Mr Nkurunziza launched his drive for a third consecutive five-year term, triggering widespread protests.
Source: The Telegraph
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