Things have taken a twist for the worst in Burundi in the Great Lakes Region after an opposition leader and his body guard were shot and killed by gunmen on Saturday, the head of a civil society group has told news agencies in the country.
Anshere Nikoyagize, head of the civil society group Ligue ITEKA, told news agencies that Zedi Feruzi, the head of the opposition party, UPD, and his bodyguard were killed near Feruzi’s home in the Ngagara district. “We heard a lot of gunfire. It’s unfortunate because there were army soldiers here, and they didn’t do anything.” This was said by a neighbour of Feruzi while talking to Reuters Television. The Ngagara district has been a source of fierce conflict in Burundi ever since the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he was going to stand for a third term in office on April 25. According to the Burundian constitution, the president only serves for two terms of five years each. Nkurunziza and his supporters have argued that he has only served for one term as the first term which started in 2005 should not be considered as he was not elected by a popular vote but by parliamentary nomination. The opposition, including Feruzi, have argued that it is against the constitution.
Nkurunziza does not show any signs of backing off his bid, having survived a month of protests and a failed coup attempt. He has, in response to international pressure, only delayed the elections by just over a week. Presidential elections are due to be held on June 26 while the parliamentary elections will have been held a fortnight before on June 5. The opposition leaders have vowed to keep up the protests until soccer loving Nkurunziza cancels his bid for a third term. Independent aid agencies like the Red Cross have estimated that at least twenty people have been killed in the unrest but emergency workers argue that that is a very conservative figure and the correct figure is much more.
Ever since the protests ensued in Burundi, many of the residents of the country have fled the country into neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has emerged that those refugees that have arrived in Tanzania have fallen prey to a severe cholera epidemic that is likely to result in more deaths to people already in dire straits. There have been calls for African leaders to call to book other leaders who cling to power beyond their mandates in order to make sure that the theme “We Are Africa” rings true for all Africans.