East Africa Community Tries to Mend Burundi Turmoil

BUJUMBURA, Burundi — With protesters in Burundi refusing to back down, government ministers from East African Community nations travelled to Burundi on Wednesday to help seek a solution to unrest caused by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term.

In the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, roads were barricaded with trees as protests continued for the second week. In Kinondo area of Bujumbura, police fired shots into the air to disperse demonstrators who had been staging a sit in.

Ministers from Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda travelled to Burundi to try to end the crisis said, Edwin Limo, a spokesman of Kenya’s foreign ministry.

Vladimir Monteriro, a U.N. press officer in Bujumbura, said a U.N.-facilitated meeting between government, opposition and civil society started Tuesday.

Burundi’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday validated the president’s controversial bid for a third term but the deputy president of the court, who fled to Rwanda ahead of the ruling, called it unconstitutional.

Jean Minani, an opposition party leader, said the opposition will use all peaceful means to ensure that the Nkurunziza does not contest in the elections because it’s unconstitutional.

Burundi’s constitution says the president is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years, renewable one time.

Nkurunziza was first installed as president in 2005 by parliament to lead a transitional government. He won the 2010 presidential election as the sole candidate. Opposition members boycotted, saying they feared it would be rigged.

At least nine people have been killed in the protests and more than 20,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda, fearing political violence.