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May 5, 2015 6:46 AM

Burundi court validates president's third term bid

The Associated Press

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) Burundi's constitutional court on Tuesday validated the president's controversial bid for a third term but the deputy president of the court, who fled to Rwanda ahead of the ruling, called the ruling unconstitutional.

The ruling came amid prolonged demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term. At least nine people have been killed in violent confrontations with the police since last week, according to the Burundi Red Cross. Scores have been wounded.

Burundi's constitution says the president is elected by universal direct suffrage for a mandate of five years, renewable one time.

Nkurunziza was first installed as president in 2005 by parliament to lead a transitional government. He won the 2010 presidential election as the sole candidate. Opposition members boycotted, saying they feared it would be rigged.

"As a Burundian and custodian of the law, my conscience could not allow me to be part of something all Burundians were standing up against, something that violates the constitution and the pillars upon which peace was achieved in Burundi," court Deputy President Sylvere Nimpagaritse told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Rusizi, Rwanda.

Evelyne Butoyi, who is in charge of information for Burundi's ruling party, said the court reached the decision in support of the ruling party on Tuesday.

At least three people were killed in Burundi on Monday in clashes with the security forces, according to the Burundi Red Cross. An estimated 45 more people were wounded, said Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza.

The police defended their tactics, saying they had restrained themselves even when 15 police officers were wounded by an exploding grenade allegedly thrown by protesters, said Liboire Bakundukize, a spokesman for the public security ministry.

Last week at least six people were killed in violent confrontations with the police, who fired live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds.

The protests are happening mostly in the suburbs of the capital, Bujumbura.

The U.S. has criticized Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term.

Speaking in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Monday: "We are deeply concerned about President Nkurunziza's decision, which flies directly in the face of the constitution of his country."

Burundi's defense minister, Maj. Gen. Pontien Gaciyubwenge, said on Saturday that the army should remain neutral amid the unrest. He urged "all political actors" to avoid violence.


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