May 8, 2015 / 10:20 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 4-Burundi president registers to run for third term as clashes erupt

* Death toll in unrest put at 17 by rights group

* Opponents say third term violates constitution

* Court says Nkurunziza has right to run again (Adds new protests, U.S. diplomat’s comments, ICC)

By Patrick Nduwimana

BUJUMBURA, May 8 (Reuters) - Burundi’s president registered on Friday to run for a third term, stoking anger among protesters opposing his bid for another five years in office.

Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police in the Nyakabiga district of Bujumbura on Friday evening, saying Pierre Nkurunziza’s plan to run again violates the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically-charged civil war in 2005.

Protesters earlier blocked roads and hurled stones at police, who fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds. Protesters say police have used live rounds but police deny shooting.

Burundi’s constitutional court ruled this week Nkurunziza could stand, saying his first term did not count because he was picked by parliament rather than elected by the people.

Opponents say the court is biased and have vowed to keep protesting until he withdraws from the race. They have called for the election to be delayed due to the unrest.

“For me, the electoral schedule has to be respected,” the former Hutu rebel leader-turned-president said after registering at the election commission.

“I would like to say that 99 percent of Burundi is in peace, demonstrations are just happening in a small part of Bujumbura.”

Saturday is the deadline for candidates to register.

Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has plunged Burundi into its worst crisis since the war, which pitted rebels from the ethnic Hutu majority against the then Tutsi-led army and killed about 300,000 people.


Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on Friday saying the ICC “will be closely following developments in Burundi in the weeks to come and record any instance of incitement or resort to violence”.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power expressed alarm at reports of the distribution of weapons to militias supporting Nkurunziza which she described as credible.

She warned Washington would impose sanctions on anyone responsible for violence, after a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting on Burundi.

Anshere Nikoyagize, head of rights group Ligue ITEKA, said the death toll since protests erupted on April 26 was 17, including civilians and members of the security forces.

More than 50,000 Burundians have fled in recent weeks to neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

Rwanda, with a similar ethnic mix to Burundi, has voiced concern about the unrest. In its 1994 genocide about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

Opposition figure Agathon Rwasa, who like Nkurunziza led a Hutu militia in the Burundi war, plans to run as an independent.

He said registering “may be a very hard exercise” as the 200 witnesses needed to support his application might not secure required documentation in time. He said the authorities had created obstacles.

The government has promised a free and fair vote.

Rwasa has called for the May parliamentary poll and June presidential election to be delayed due to the unrest but said the votes should take place before Nkurunziza’s term runs out on Aug. 26. (Additional reporting by Njuwa Maina in Bujumbura, Tom Miles in Geneva and Louis Charbonneau in New York; Writing by Edmund Blair and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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