referendum vote

The Burundian government will not take part in any Inter-Burundi Dialogue session before the May 17 constitutional referendum, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

“We will not attend any Inter-Burundi Dialogue session, whether on the Burundian territory or outside Burundi, before the constitutional referendum,” said Therence Ntahiraja, assistant to the home affairs minister.

“Very soon, the president of Burundi will announce the beginning of the 14-day campaign for the constitutional referendum,” said Ntahiraja. “No Inter-Burundi Dialogue session can happen while we have other activities like the constitutional referendum process.”

The constitutional referendum process “must move ahead,” he said.

The campaign is due to start by the beginning of May, according to Prosper Ntahorwamiye, spokesman of the National Independent Electoral Commission of Burundi (CENI).

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue is aimed at finding a solution to the political crisis in Burundi. It is led by the East African Community (EAC) under the mediatorship of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The EAC also appointed former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the facilitator of the dialogue to support Museveni.

Launched in December 2015, the dialogue talks at the external level under the EAC auspices has made no concrete progress.

Around 5 million Burundian citizens have registered for the upcoming constitutional referendum and for the general elections in the combined registration, according to the CENI.

The draft constitution amendment, which doesn’t ban the current president to run again in 2020, extends the presidential term from five years provided in the 2005 constitution to seven years and allows the president to serve two consecutive terms.

It will be passed if it is approved by over 50 percent of voters, according to the presidential decree for inviting registered voters to vote in the referendum.

In April 2015, President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, which he won in July 2015. His candidature, opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted in a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup in May 2015.

The current constitution of Burundi and the 2000 Arusha Agreement, which ended a decade-long civil war, stipulate that a president of Burundi cannot serve for more than two terms. Nkurunziza was elected president of Burundi by the parliament in 2005, and was re-elected in a universal suffrage in 2010 and in 2015.

Main opposition groups had been saying that Nkurunziza’s third-term bid was a violation of the constitution and the Arusha Agreement, but the Constitutional Court issued a ruling saying that Nkurunziza’s 2005-2010 term should not be considered as a term because he was elected by the parliament and not directly by citizens. Enditem


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