At least two people were killed in overnight attacks that they believe were carried out by Burundian police, witnesses said on Sunday as the country prepared for legislative elections despite an upsurge in violence.
Witnesses in the Jabe neighborhood in the nation’s capital of Bujumbura, reported intense gunfire on Saturday night in an apparent police crackdown on areas seen as hosting anti-government protesters.
Mohamed Masumbuko said his brother, Masumbuko Prime Abdul, was killed in a grenade attack, his “face completely shredded.” He blamed the police for the attack on his neighborhood.
Another victim, Patrick Ndikumana, was first hit by a bullet but was killed in a subsequent grenade attack, according to witness Joshua Ngendakumana.
It was not immediately possible to get a comment from the police, who have previously blamed an escalation of violence on protesters opposed to a third term for President Pierre Nkurunziza. Protesters frequently set up barricades of burning tires in their neighborhoods to prevent police from gaining access.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on Monday despite persistent calls from the international community for the polls to be postponed until the country is peaceful enough. The government insists an indefinite postponement of the elections would create a dangerous political vacuum that might lead to even more chaos.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the government’s insistence on going ahead with the elections “despite the prevailing political and security environment,” according to a statement released Sunday by his spokesman. Ban said it was the Burundi government’s responsibility “to ensure that elections take place in a secure environment and also to guarantee the safety of UN observers.”
The US said this week that it supports the African Union’s call for the Burundian government and opposition groups to restart talks aimed at reaching “consensus on the timetable and necessary conditions for peaceful and credible elections, and to reach agreement on other matters on which the parties disagree.”
Washington, which opposes Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, said it is suspending technical assistance to Burundi’s electoral commission. Opposition groups are also boycotting the elections, saying they don’t expect them to be free and fair.
Burundi has experienced weeks of unrest since the ruling party’s April 26 announcement that Nkurunziza will run for a third term in office. At least 77 people have died in street protests opposing Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in the July 15 presidential elections, according to rights activists. Hundreds more have been wounded.
The street protests boiled over in mid-May, leading to an attempted coup.