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Nkurunziza launches drive to extend tenure

Nairobi, Wednesday

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has launched a campaign to promote a referendum to change the constitution that could see him rule until 2034.

“It’s the day you’ve been waiting for,” Nkurunziza told a crowd of thousands of farmers in the central Gitega district on Tuesday, threatening those who sought to undermine the referendum vote slated for early 2018.

The government adopted a plan in October to revise the constitution that, if passed by the referendum, would allow Nkurunziza to serve another two seven-year terms from 2020.

“We take this opportunity to warn those who want to sabotage this project, whether by speech or actions,” Nkurunziza said. “It will be a red line.” The start of the campaign comes a day after the government launched a fundraising drive for elections in 2020, presented as “voluntary” but condemned by rights groups as “organised robbery”.

Burundi plunged into crisis in 2015 when Nkrunziza ran for a controversial third term that he went on to win. Between 500 and 2,000 people are estimated to have died in the ensuing turmoil, according to varying tolls.

Opposition activists, forced into exile by the troubles, have already denounced a project they say will be the “funeral” of the country’s 2000 peace agreement that ended a 13-year civil war in which more than 300,000 people were killed.

Meanwhile, authorities in Burundi have been holding a human rights activist since November 21, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today.

The authorities should immediately release the activist, Nestor Nibitanga, or charge him with a credible offense. The police accused Nibitanga, via twitter, of “threatening state security.” – AFP

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