BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) — About 2,000 people marched through a neighborhood of Burundi’s capital on Monday as police looked on, breaking the government’s ban on any further street protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in power.
The European Union Observer mission for the June elections said the Burundi government is curtailing fundamental freedoms of expression, association and protest which are essential conditions of democratic elections.
” I take note that while demonstrations against the third mandate (term) have been banned and met with repression, demonstrations in favor of President Nkurunziza’s candidacy have been allowed and its participants protected,” said David Martin chief of the European Union observer mission.
The expression of opinions that are opposed to those of the government can never be equated with insurgency, he said.
Belgium announced it had suspended some aid meant for the Burundi elections, citing infringement of rights by the government which undermines the conditions needed for free and fair elections. Belgium also said it has suspended aid meant for the Burundian police.
Small groups of young men on Monday set up barricades the Musaga area of Bujumbura, the capital, and checked pedestrians and vehicles taking part in the march. Police and army soldiers negotiated with protesters to allow trucks to pass through the procession.
Trucks succeeded in making deliveries of fuel to Bujumbura. Earlier demonstrations had disrupted fuel distributions, causing prices to rise.
At least 14 people have been killed and 216 injured in the protests, which have now entered their third week.
Nkurunziza’s government on Saturday forbid any further protests and ordered all state officials report back to work and all schools to reopen on Monday.
Burundi’s Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to two five-year terms. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first term, leaving him open to be popularly elected to two terms.
The protests started on April 25 after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to run for re-election in elections set for June.
More than 50,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries fearing violence ahead of the elections, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
The U.S. and the African Union have said Nkurunziza should not seek a third term.
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