20 June 2005

Burundi: Violence, Tension As Parliamentary Poll Campaigns Get Under Way

Bujumbura — Campaigning for legislative elections in Burundi entered its third day on Monday, already marked by tension and violence following the killing of three people, among them two candidates, in the capital, Bujumbura.

A woman and the two candidates, members of President Domitien Ndayizeye's FRODEBU party, died in a grenade blast on Saturday in a bar in Kamenge neighbourhood, in the northern part of the capital. They were from a political rally.

FRODEBU Secretary-General Léonce Ngendakumana said the attackers targeted his party's supporters.

"We were informed that something was in preparation but did not know where and when it would take place," Ngendakumana said.

He added supporters of FRODEBU were being intimidated across the country. He did not name those behind the alleged intimidation.

The director-general of the national police, Brig-Gen Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, said at a news conference on Monday that investigations had begun into Saturday's killings. He said political parties and the government administration should leave the police to investigate such cases and refrain from comment. Bunyoni added the police might increase its presence over the whole territory to curb violence.

There is high tension between FRODEBU and the CNDD-FDD political party - former rebel movement that won recent communal elections by a majority - with the FRODEBU accusing its rival of using terrorism and intimidation to get votes. FRODEBU came second in the communal elections.

As the elections campaigns continue, leaflets against the CNDD-FDD are being distributed in provinces such as Makamba, Gitega and in the southern town of Rumonge, accusing it of attempting to install a Tutsi regime in Burundi with the help of Rwanda.

The local administrative officials and the police in Gitega said they had found some FRODEBU members with the leaflets.

However, FRODEBU Chairman Jean Minani has, on several occasions, refuted allegations that his party was behind the distribution of the leaflets.

On Sunday, upon his return from Qatar where he had attended the G77 summit, Ndayizeye said the National Independent Electoral Commission, or CENI, should curb such irregularities promptly to ensure peaceful elections.

"The role of the commission is not only to organise the elections but also ensure rules are respected," he said.

However, CENI officials maintain that the commission has no mandate to prosecute or punish offenders.

In a meeting with political parties on Wednesday, commission Chairman Paul Ngarambe said CENI could only transmit the complaints to competent authorities.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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