Burundi announces May 17 date for referendum

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Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has announced the country will hold a referendum on constitutional changes that could extend his rule on May 17.

The president’s announcement on Sunday means the country will hold the controversial referendum in less than two month’s time. A “yes” vote from the general public could allow Nkurunziza to extend his stay in office for at least a decade but opposition groups accuse the government of intimidating voters in the build-up to the poll.

Burundi to hold referendum in May

The proposed changes in Burundi’s upcoming referendum would amend the length of presidential terms from five years to seven. While the constitution would still limit leaders to a maximum of two terms in power, the changes wouldn’t take terms already served into consideration, effectively allowing Nkurunziza to run for a further two terms.

The Burundi president is already serving his third term in power, despite the existing two-term limit. The country descended into political crisis when he announced he would run for a third term in power in April 2015. His supporters justified the move by suggesting his first term didn’t count as he was elected by parliament rather than a public vote.

The Burundi government has managed to resecure power over the last few years but it has come at the expense of grave human rights abuses and political oppression. The country’s opposition groups are considerably weaker than they were in 2015 but the risk of further violence can’t be ruled out once the referendum result is announced.

Featured image: By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org)/Eric Miller, mailto:emiller@iafrica.com emiller@iafrica.com) – Pierre Nkurunziza – World Economic Forum on Africa 2008, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5685472

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.