AU calls for a new election date in Burundi

President Pierre Nkurunziza

African Union leaders meeting in South Africa have called on Burundi to postpone the elections saying that a new date should be agreed upon through negotiations between the government and the opposition.

The leaders rejected Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to hold presidential elections on July 15 – in which he plans to run again.

Deputy chairperson of the African Union commission Erastus Mwencha, said the proposed date is based on information the AU gathered through consultation with all stakeholders, including a report from leaders of the East African community.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council, decided that the AU would only send election observers to the Burundi elections “if conditions for the organisation of free, fair, transparent and credible elections, in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, are met”.

Initially Burundi had planned for the elections on June 26, but the date was changed by presidential decree following an electoral commission proposal.

Burundi has been recently rocked by Violent street protests which erupted  after President Nkurunziza announced in April that he would seek a third term as president, despite two-term limits in the country’s constitution and in the Arusha agreement which established the framework for democracy in Burundi after the long civil war which ended in elections in 2005.

Theere was also the abborted coup attempt againt Nkurunziza buy soldiers who also thought the president’s third term bid was unconstitutional.

The president’s supporters argue he is eligible to run again because he was appointed by lawmakers to his first term in office, and not elected by a popular vote.

Meanwhile, the  leaders  agreed on Monday to send military experts to Burundi, which has been rocked by weeks of violence over the president’s controversial bid for a third term.

“Our heads of states decided… (on) the deployment of African military experts… to verify the process of disarming the militia and other armed groups,” the African Union’s peace and security commissioner Smail Chergui told reporters.