Agathou Rwasa: Referendum a ‘parody’

Agathou Rwasa

Agathou Rwasa

An opposition coalition in Burundi has said it will not accept the results of a referendum on constitutional reforms that could extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s time in office, calling the process a “parody” and undemocratic.
In comments made on Saturday to The Associated Press, Agathon Rwasa, head of the Amizero y’Abarundi bloc, alleged that government forces had arrested perceived opponents ahead of Thursday’s ballot and threatened to assassinate those who voted against amending the constitution.
The referendum asked voters to decide “yes” or “no” on proposed constitutional amendments, including whether the current five-year presidential terms will be increased to seven years. No change to the limit of two terms in office is proposed.
If approved, Nkurunziza, whose current term expires in two years, could run for two more terms and be in power until 2034.
“We will not accept the outcome of this referendum because it is a fantasy,” said Rwasa, one of the few opposition leaders still in Burundi, a country plagued by a political and security crisis since 2015.
“Some of our members have been kidnapped, others beaten … while some people were forced to vote ‘yes’ and during counting our representatives were expelled.”
Rwasa called on Burundi’s Electoral Commission to redo the ballot in a free and fair manner.
More than five million people registered to vote in the referendum, according to the commission, with official results expected to be announced imminently. The changes will be adopted if more than 50 percent of voters selected “yes”.
Results published on Friday by a group of 15 public and private radio stations showed a majority “yes” vote in at least 14 of Burundi’s 18 provinces.
Before the vote, human rights groups said the campaign period had been marked by intimidation and abuse.
And after the ballot, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said at least 15 people opposing the referendum had been killed, while six others were raped and eight abducted.
The “full scale of abuse” is likely “significantly higher”, HRW said on Friday, with “many victims and witnesses unwilling or unable to report abuses”.
Ida Sawyer, HRW’s Central Africa Director, said the vote had taken place amid “widespread abuse, fear and pressure – a climate that is clearly not conducive to free choice”. -Aljazeera

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