Last week’s killing of three people and wounding of nine in a marketplace grenade attack illustrates the escalation in violence as protests continue against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s contentious bid for a third presidential term. The prospects for ending the unrest have suffered a significant blow, with minor opposition party Union for Peace and Democracy accusing the government of being behind the shooting of its leader Zedi Feruzi, and subsequently refusing to cooperate with United Nations-brokered talks.
As well as lacking full representation, the negotiations are struggling with neither the government, nor the coalition of civil society groups and opposition political parties allied against Nkurunziza being willing to back down on their positions. Without some change in this regard, it is likely Burundi will see prolonged demonstrations and violence, threatening its fragile transformation into a stable democracy following a long civil war that ended in 2005. Nonetheless, the dialogue is continuing in the capital Bujumbura and remains the best hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Describing Feruzi’s death as a “wake-up call” for the country’s political leaders, the UN Mission in Burundi and several regional organizations have stepped up calls for a resolution through the talks, while the opposition have asked for larger, but non-violent street marches. Even with over 20 civilians dead and more than 110,000 people displaced by the crisis since protests began on April 26, Nkurunziza will not reconsider his candidacy for a third presidential term, which opponents say violates the national constitution. Read more