afrol News, 28 June - The elections in Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza is the sole candidate and which have been marred by violence and opposition protests, were carried out today. Burundi now faces sanctions and more trouble.
Burundi was just recovering from a bloody and long civil war, with all major rebel groups joining the democratisation process and the national economy finally beginning to take off again.
All this has been jeopardised by today's failure to organise free and fair elections. President Nkurunziza ended up as the only choice after all opposition candidates withdrew from the poll some weeks ago citing fraud and unfair conditions.
Reports from the capital Bujumbura agree that the election did not impress Burundian voters. Polling stations were generally poorly visited during today and the turnout is expected to be record low.
Voters were not only disappointed by their lack of choice, but also to a large degree feared further outbreaks of violence. During the run-up to today's elections, at least 40 grenade attacks have been registered, killing five persons.
The latest blast was registered this night, only a few hours before polling stations opened. A grenade exploded close to the offices of the European Union election observer mission in Bujumbura. There were no reports of deaths or injured.
With a victory for the incumbent secured, analysts fear that these grenade attacks only mark the beginning of a new round of political violence and maybe even civil war in the chronically instable country. Many of the opposition candidates withdrawing represent formerly armed rebel groups.
These fears are fuelled by the new rise of political extremism in Burundi, mainly promoted by President Nkurunziza's government and its state-controlled media. Hate speech against the opposition in particular has ruled the airwaves of pro-government 'Rema FM' during the last month.
'Rema FM' earlier this month dismissed the opposition as a "criminal enterprise," saying these parties were "trying to destabilise the country and stir up the population." The radio presenter then gave the names and addresses of people identified as members of the opposition.
With political violence threatening to return to Burundi, also the country's nascent economy may again collapse. Burundi is a recent member to the East African Community (EAC), a trade block that had helped the country's economy to kick-start after the civil war.
But this weekend, the EAC warned it would impose sanctions against Burundian "individuals or groupings that destabilise the peace" in the country. The EAC would insist the democratisation of all member states to avoid a situation that could lead to disharmony of the region, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said.
Also Jean Ping, the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, yesterday voiced concern about the new political developments in Burundi, while UN independent expert Akich Okola today said he feared that the presidential election could result in more human rights violations.
Neither the EAC nor the African Commission however wanted to put all the blame with President Nkurunziza. First, they wanted to listen to the conclusions of the EU and AU election observer missions, then possible further action would be decided on.
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