Burundi’s second vice president has fled to Belgium, saying he had allegedly been threatened, after denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.
Gervais Rufyikiri, who held the post of second Vice president, is the latest senior official to flee in recent weeks.
He is however not the first senior government official to flee Burundi.
In May, the vice president of Burundi’s election commission and a senior judge fled the country, amid mounting public anti-government protests.
Opponents and critics of President Pierre Nkurunziza say his bid for a third term is unconstitutional and against the spirit of peace.
The President’s bid has plunged Burundi into its worst crisis, since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005.
Gervais Rufyikiri told France 24 television from Belgium that he took the decision to leave the country because he was personally threatened.
He said he fears for his security since he felt it.
Presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho said there was no threat to Rufyikiri, who had simply “expressed an opinion”.
Protests against Nkurunziza erupted on April 26, a day after he announced his bid. For weeks, stone-throwing demonstrators clashed with police, who were seen shooting at them.
The United Nations, African states and Western nations have called for dialogue to ease tensions in a region with a history of ethnic conflict. Talks between rival camps so far have shown little sign of bridging differences.
Both the presidential vote, now scheduled for July 15, and a parliamentary election due on June 29 were delayed by several weeks due to unrest.
A prominent Burundi rights group, led by an activist who opposes the third-term bid, said last week that the death toll since protests erupted was at least 70. The president’s ruling CNDD-FDD party has put the toll at more than 40.