Sunday, May 17, 2015 5:39 pm
The east African nation was plunged into crisis after Nkurunziza said he was seeking a third term of office.
Critics said the move would be unconstitutional, and there have been almost daily protests since Nkurunziza’s announcement, stirring memories of an ethnically driven civil war that ended a decade ago.
At a news conference, Nkurunziza, who has not been seen in the capital for days, did not address the crisis in his country but said he was “very preoccupied” by the threat posed by the al Qaeda linked militant group al Shabaab.
“We take seriously the threat of al Shabaab,” said Nkurunziza.
He did not elaborate, but Burundi contributes forces to an African Union peacekeeping mission battling al Shabaab in Somalia. In recent years, the group has attacked Kenya and Uganda, which also provide troops.
A spokesman for the Islamist group had no immediate comment.
A leader of a group of Burundian civil society groups, Vital Nshimirimana, said demonstrations against Nkurunziza’s third term bid, which had largely come to a halt in recent days, would resume on Monday.
“We ask the international community to follow closely the situation in Burundi in order to stop the harsh reprisal against protesters, civil society activists and opposition leaders,” Nshimirimana said in a statement.
Until the coup attempt, protests had occurred almost daily in the outskirts of Bujumbura. Protesters hurled rocks while police fired tear gas, water cannon and were also seen firing guns at the protesters.
Diplomats say the longer unrest continues the more chance that a conflict, which up until now has been largely a struggle for power, reopens old wounds in a region with a history of ethnic killing.
More than 105,000 people have fled to neighbouring states, including next-door Rwanda, with the same ethnic mix as Burundi and which was torn apart by a genocide in 1994 that killed 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
At the Gashora camp in Rwanda, Hakizimana Leonidas, a farmer who said he was a Tutsi, said he fled Burundi a day after last week’s coup attempt.
“I want to see Burundi as a peaceful country but the problem is that those who could be protecting us are the ones causing chaos,” said Leonidas, 46.