Burundi’s constitutional court has 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.
Tuesday’s ruling came amid prolonged demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term. At least nine people have been killed in violent confrontations with the police since last week, according to the Burundi Red Cross. Scores more have been wounded.
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, after opposition members boycotted the vote saying they feared it would be rigged.
Nkurunziza’s supporters say he can run again in the June 26 election because his first term, when he was picked by lawmakers and not elected, does not count.
The government has urged protesters to accept the ruling and stop demonstrating, although some officials opposed the ruling, saying it was unfair.
“As a Burundian and custodian of the law, my conscience could not allow me to be part of something all Burundians were standing up against, something that violates the constitution and the pillars upon which peace was achieved in Burundi,” Court Deputy President Sylvere Nimpagaritse told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Rusizi, Rwanda, where he fled ahead of the ruling.