BUJUMBURA: Burundi’s anti-government street demonstrations continued for a third day Tuesday protesting President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.
A heavy security presence prevented groups of angry protesters from reaching the center of the capital. Police watched as demonstrators in the suburbs of Bujumbura, the capital, burned tires and erected barricades in the streets. Some threw stones at the police.
In clashes the police have been shooting bullets, tear gas and water cannon, according to Human Rights Watch, which said in a statement late Monday that at least two people had been killed and several others wounded. The Burundi Red Cross said, however, that it has confirmed six deaths.
Burundian police on Monday arrested Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a leading human rights activist and government critic, and also shut down an independent radio broadcaster known as RPA, said Human Rights Watch.
The ruling party said in a statement late Monday that the events unfolding in Bujumbura are “nothing short of rebellion” and accused opposition figures of trying to make the country ungovernable.
Nkurunziza first came to power in 2005 after being voted in by lawmakers. He then ran unopposed and was re-elected in 2010. His critics say another term for him is unconstitutional.
Presidential elections are scheduled for June 26 and tensions have been rising since January, with thousands of people fleeing to neighboring countries over election violence. More than 20,000 Burundians have sought refugee status in Rwanda, and at least 4,000 more are sheltering in Congo, according to the U.N.
The number of Burundians crossing into Rwanda had risen sharply over the weekend, with more than 5,000 refugees entering Rwanda in two days, said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman in Geneva for the U.N. refugee agency.
Those who oppose Nkurunziza running for a third term include members of his own party, lawmakers, the clergy, student groups and civil society.
Many of those fleeing to Rwanda allege pressure to support Nkurunziza and violence by the ruling party’s youth wing, known as Imbonerakure.