Burundi votes on extending Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule until 2034

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The people of Burundi are taking to the polls to vote in a constitutional referendum that could pave the way for President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his rule until 2034.

Polls opened at 07:00 GMT on Thursday morning and will close at 12:00 GMT with 4.8 million people – almost half the population – expected to vote. If the referendum is approved by more than 50 percent of voters, Burundi’s constitution will be amended to extend the length of presidential terms from five to seven years and allow Nkurunziza to run for an additional two terms.

Burundi votes on constitutional changes

President Pierre Nkurunziza joined voters in his home province of Ngonzi on Thursday morning to cast his vote in the referendum.

“I thank all Burundians who woke up early in the morning to do this noble patriotic gesture,” he said after casting his vote.

The vote comes after months of heavy campaigning from the president and his government, prompting accusations of intimidation tactics and widespread opposition against the proposed constitutional changes.

Nkurunziza passed a presidential decree criminalising calls to abstain from voting in the referendum and its opponents have been publicly threatened by government officials. On Thursday, the Burundi capital of Bujumbura was lined with security forces as the country prepared to vote and there have been early reports of intimidation from activist groups in the country.

“I just came because I am told those who won’t vote will be punished,” one teacher said while she was waiting to vote in the capital.

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.