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At Least 77 People Have Reportedly Been Killed Since the Protests Began in Burundi

The head of an NGO in Burundi announced the death toll and said 1,000 people have been arrested and dozens tortured since the demonstrations began in April.
Photo by Dai Kurokawa/EPA

At least 77 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded since the end of April in clashes between protesters and security forces in Burundi, according to the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (PRODH), a Burundian NGO.

The protesters oppose Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's campaign for a third term in office, which they believe is unconstitutional. Although recent reports have noted that the demonstrations have calmed down, some protesters have remained outspoken as local and national elections approach in the coming weeks.

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PRODH head Pierre Claver Mbonimpa told the Associated Press that 1,000 people have been arrested and dozens of prisoners tortured. Burundian police and the National Intelligence Service have denied torturing prisoners.

Mbonimpa said he personally helped several protesters who suffered torture get treatment, and that his group has representatives across the nation tallying the death toll and visiting with prisoners.

Related: Stones vs. Guns: A Night on Burundi's Streets with Elvis and His Protesters

Mbonimpa told AFP that the slain protesters were mainly shot, but that some were killed by grenade blasts. "The vast majority are civilians, but there are some police and soldiers as well," he said, noting that "about 50" people are currently hospitalized.

According to the Red Cross in Burundi, at least 24 civilians have been killed and 591 others wounded in the unrest in just the capital Bujumbura.

Over the course of May in Burundi, an opposition leader was assassinated, protests were suppressed by gunfire, and a coup d'état attempt failed. More than 90,000 people have fled to neighboring countries, with many reportedly fleeing violence at the hands of the Imbonerakure, a pro-government militia.

Municipal and legislative elections are currently scheduled to take place on June 29, with the presidential vote slated for July 15. The votes were previously postponed by presidential decree on June 10 at the behest of the Independent National Electoral Commission and under international pressure.

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Seventeen opposition parties have threatened to boycott the elections. The opposition categorically rejects the president's candidacy for a third term and the new election calendar. The government has said that Nkurunziza's candidacy is "not negotiable," and that "there will be no further postponements."

Related: Pro-Government Militia Could Push Burundi 'Over the Edge,' Says UN

"How can we hold elections when people have been murdered, while the Imbonerakure are still armed, while there's no electoral commission here, while the independent media still hasn't recovered, while the political leaders aren't protected?" opposition leader Agathon Rwasa asked on June 10.

The opposition previously rejected a series of presidential decrees approved by the Burundian Parliament to reform the electoral commission, calling the resulting system "an instrument tailored specifically to bring Nkurunziza to power." The reformed commission approved eight candidates for the presidential election, including Nkurunziza and his main opponent, Agathon Rwasa.

On Thursday, Burundi has agreed to the deployment of African Union military observers and human rights experts to monitor the upcoming elections.

Follow Matthieu Jublin on Twitter: @MatthieuJublin

The Associated Press contributed to this report.