BURUNDI: Church Calls for Elections to be Postponed

BUJUMBURA, MAY 15 2015(CISA) – The Catholic bishops of Burundi have called for the country’s elections in June to be postponed as violence broke out on the streets of the capital Bujumbura following an attempted coup.

“Let’s use dialogue and consultation and stop using violent means. The method, which so far has been beneficial to us, has been that of people in conflict sitting together to dialogue and consult,” Bishop Gervais Banshimiyubusa, the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Burundi, said in a statement May 18, reported Catholic Herald.

“Instead of sticking to this path of confrontation which mostly leads to loss of lives, our leaders and all other protagonists should embrace dialogue and consultation,” added Bishop Banshimiyubusa.

On May 13 Major Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief, launched a coup attempt after President Nkurunziza left for regional talks in Tanzania but his troops were overpowered by forces loyal to the president  leading to the arrest of some coup leaders.

Opposition parties and civil society groups have been organising protests against a third term bid by President Pierre Nkurunziza since April 26 when Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in June 26 polls.

The clashes between security forces and demonstrators has left over 20 people dead and scores wounded and have raised fears of a return to widespread violence in Burundi, which is still recovering from a brutal 13-year civil war that ended in 2006 and which left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

Church leaders in Burundi have said that they will ask Catholics to leave the country’s electoral commission if the incumbent president seeks a third term in office in a move which would violate the country’s constitution.

Catholics make up roughly two-thirds of Burundi’s seven million population and yield significant political influence.

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