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

Burundi's opposition has rejected the proposed July 15 date for a new election, saying its conditions have not been met. More than 90,000 people have fled the country since protests surged in April.

by VICE News
Jun 9 2015, 5:43pm

Photo par Dai Kurokawa/EPA

A proposal to hold Burundi's presidential election on July 15 has been met with cries of opposition, amid warnings from the United Nations that a pro-government militia could "tip an already extremely tense situation over the edge."

The country's opposition rejected the date saying their conditions for a free election had not been met, and also called for the resignation of UN mediator Said Djinnit on the grounds he had failed to resolve the crisis, reported the BBC.

Protests and violence have gripped Burundi after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April that he would run for a third term, a move viewed by many as unconstitutional.

Burundi's electoral commission, which on Monday put forward the proposal and is now awaiting presidential approval, has been accused by one opposition party of lacking the legal basis to make any pronouncements since two of its five members are believed to have fled the country. 

Related: Protesters Brave Threats to Return Burundi's Streets Following Failed Coup Against President

More than 90,000 Burundians have recently left their homeland, with the capital Bujumbura rocked by protests since Nkurunziza announced his plan to run for a third term in April. Such a move is illegal, say demonstrators, as the constitution only allows for two five-year terms. According to the Red Cross, thousands have sought safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda.

At least 20 people have been killed in clashes with police who have used tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition.

On Tuesday, the United Nations also expressed alarm over reports of intimidation and harassment by a militia attached to the youth wing of Burundi's ruling party, the Imbonerakure.

UN human rights chief, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, said his office had received "consistent testimonies" indicating that Imbonerakure members operate under instructions from the ruling party and with weapons, vehicles, and sometimes uniforms provided by police and intelligence services."

Their activities could lead to violence spiraling, he warned, calling on Burundian authorities to "show their commitment to peace by clearly disassociating themselves from their violent supporters."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related: Assassination of Opposition Figure in Burundi Derails Talks Between Protesters and Government

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