Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza on Friday promised to deliver “five more years of peace” if he is re-elected next week, in the climax of a campaign marked by deadly street protests and an attempted coup.
Addressing hundreds of supporters in northern Cibitoke province and protected by large numbers of police and troops, the president said only his ruling party delivers stability and promised the region new roads, a hospital, electricity and schools.
“If you choose the CNDD-FDD you are sure of five more years of peace,” he told the gathering of at least 1,500 people in one of his last campaign rallies ahead of next Tuesday’s elections — in which he is almost assured of victory due to an opposition boycott.
The crisis in the impoverished, landlocked country began in late April when Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, despite a constitutional two-term limit, sparking months of turmoil and a failed coup in mid-May.
Opposition groups say another term would violate a peace deal that paved the way to end a dozen years of civil war in 2006. There are fears the current crisis could plunge the impoverished, landlocked country back into civil war.
Around 100 people have been killed in more than two months of protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.
Rebel Burundian soldiers involved in the coup have also said they have been engaged in a recent spate of battles with the army in the north of the country, posing the threat of a full-scale armed rebellion following the election.
Regional states have been trying to mediate between the government and the opposition, although talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni this week ended without a deal, and fresh talks were held on Friday with Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga as mediator.
But sources said the talks remain tense, with the government pushing ahead with its plan to go ahead with the polls on July 21 and ignoring demands for a delay.
“If the government continues like this, there doesn’t seem to be any point in negotiating,” said opposition leader Charles Nditije, accusing the government of “pushing the country into an even deeper crisis.”
Nkurunziza’s ruling party scored a widely-expected landslide win in parliamentary polls held on May 29, but these were boycotted by the opposition and condemned internationally as neither free nor fair.