The press statement, which was signed by Secretary of State John Kerry, claims that the results were caused by a flawed electoral process which was marred with violence and didn’t respect civil or human rights. It also accused President Nkurunziza of keeping power through “undemocratic means” and violating the 1999 Arusha Agreement.
Pierre Nkurunziza, who is the country’s president since 2005, won a highly contested first round election with nearly 70 percent of the votes. His eligibility was contested due to the fact that this would be his third term in office, while the Burundian Constitution sets a maximum limit of two terms per president.
Running on behalf of the country’s ruling CNDD-FDD party, Nkurunziza and his supporters claimed that he could partake in the elections due to the fact that his first term was attributed by Parliament election rather than popular vote, making his upcoming mandate effectively the second handed by people’s vote.
The announcement of Nkurunziza’s candidacy caused civil unrest in the Eastern African country, with street protests leaving an estimate of 100 dead. Over 170,000 people have fled the country fearing that the situation would escalate into another civil war like the one which ended in 2005, claiming 300,000 lives during its 12 years of conflict.
After Nkurunziza’s candidacy was declared eligible by the country’s Constitutional Court, its vice president fled the country and admitted that he and other members were pressured into a decision favorable to the incumbent president, despite thinking otherwise. A military faction attempted a coup d’état in May in hopes of ousting Nkurunziza, but was defeated by loyalist forces after two days of heavy fighting.
Amongst the controversies, international bodies called for the election to be postponed and the matter investigated further. Another U.S. State Department press statement in April, this time signed by spokesperson Marie Harf, openly condemned the CNDD-FDD’s decision to name Nkurunziza as its candidate for a third term, claiming that this was a major setback for the country’s democratic transition. A similar position was maintained by the African Union, of which Burundi is a founding member.
Burundi’s opposition parties initially announced that they will back a single candidate, National Forces of Liberation’s Agathon Rwasa, but then called for its supporters to boycott the election. Despite this, the turnover was over 73 percent, with Rwasa receiving 18.99 percent of the votes according to the country’s electoral commission.
Image Source: World Affairs Journal