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East African Community must support the people, says former Burundian president Ndayizeye

media Protesters marching on the streets of the Kinindo neighbourhood of Bujumbura, 12 May 2015 Daniel Finnan

Heads of state from the East African Community must support the Burundian people and uphold the Arusha Agreement that they helped broker, former Burundian president Domitien Ndayizeye, who led a transitional government in 2003, told RFI in Bujumbura.

“I hope that the heads of state who were there when we were negotiating the Arusha Agreement will understand the Arusha Ageement is the main document which has led Burundi into a safe situation up to today,” says Ndayizeye.

He’s planning to attend the East African Community meeting in Dar Es Salaam on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Burundi.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza has faced more than two weeks of protests against him seeking another term in office.

The Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and a ceasefire agreement were belatedly signed by President Nkurunziza’s ruling party, the CNDD-FDD in 2003.

The opposition say that the ruling party has not adhered to the Arusha Agreement, and that Nkurunziza’s third term would be unconstitutional.

The country's constitutional court has ruled that Nkurunziza's first term as president does not count because he was not voted into power under universal suffrage. Therefore his third term, if elected, would actually be his second term.

More than 20 people have been killed in demonstrations in Burundi, which shows that the people who are protesting do not want Nkurunziza to run in the June elections, in violation of the Arusha Agreement, says Ndayizeye.

“Let me hope … the heads of state will understand and will support our population and ask the current president to stop. And let me hope again that the current president will understand his colleagues,” he adds.

Meanwhile, protesters in the Kinindo area of Bujumbura on Tuesday morning said they were hopeful that the East African Community leaders would listen to the people of Burundi.

East African presidents are meeting so that they can tell President Nkurunziza to forget the third mandate so that another [person can run for the office of] the president,” one protester, who wished to remain anonymous, told RFI.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza told journalists that security forces can justify killing protesters.

“The protest - I surely think you must distinguish between the demonstration and insurgency. You’ve seen for yourself that the police tactics are acceptable,” he said during a rally for his ruling CNDD-FDD party on Monday in Muyinga, northeast Burundi.

“It’s defensive action, self defence. So it’s been for the police, I think you’ve followed it, not offensive, but defensive,” he added.

President Nkurunziza told reporters that the conditions are better than they were in previous years, citing the return of nearly one million Burundian refugees as a sign of people wanting the vote to be held now.

“There’s also the determination of the people to participate in elections. And you’ve seen for yourselves the agreements we’ve signed, the timetable for the electoral campaign. You see that all the conditions are in place.”

African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had already warned last week that the time was not right for elections and it was clear there should not be a third term. Both the United States and European Union have called for the polls to be delayed.

“In discussions, we have strongly encouraged the government to take measures to appease the situation - in this context, the idea of changing the dates to allow a bit more time for campaigning, to enable a more equal campaign with the same fair conditions for all candidates,” Koen Vervaeke, the EU’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes region said during a press conference in Bujumbura on Monday.

“This would from our perspective be a good thing. The international community wants
Burundi to hold successful elections,” he said, adding that the EU called on the Burundi government to take the “necessary and urgent steps.”

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