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Burundi poll agency all set for referendum despite calls for postponement

Even as Burundi’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) says all parties will be free to campaign for or against the May 17 constitution amendment, sections of Burundian opposition members want the process shelved.

The opposition has now written to the Africa Union and the East African Community, asking them to prevail upon President Pierre Nkurunziza to shelve the onstitutional referendum, which observers say could allow him to rule until 2034.

The opposition has written to the continental and regional bodies asking them to intervene and prevent the amendment of the 2005 Constitution.

“The African Union and the UN should stop President Nkurunziza from amending the constitution,” deputy chairman of the opposition Frodebu party, Leonce Ngendakumana told The EastAfrican.

According to Mr Ngendakumana, the Burundian leader should instead be advised to release political prisoners and disarm the ruling party youth wing Imbonerakure.

In the run up to the last elections, the Imbonerakure (Kirundi for “seeing far”), were accused of attacking opposition members with crude weapons — a claim the group has denied.

Mr Ngendakumana was among the signatories of the letter calling on the region intervention in the country’s constitution amendment.

However, opposition leaders in the country, including the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Agathon Rwasa have already registered themselves for the campaigns.

The referendum campaign is expected to kick off on May 1 and voting will take place on May 17. President Nkurunziza has already been campaigning across the country.

Chairman of the electoral body Pierre Claver Ndayicariye said everything is set and he is optimistic that the referendum will be conducted in a free, fair and peaceful environment.

The Burundi Constitution was at the centre of the political crisis since 2015 that led to more than 1,000 people losing their lives.

Among the articles that will be amended in the Constitution is article 96 that limits a president to run for more than two terms in the office.

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