(AA) – Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza will have to assure East African leaders – when they meet on Wednesday – that his country’s elections will be free, fair and peaceful, Tanzania’s top diplomat has said.
Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) – a regional bloc comprised of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – are scheduled to meet in the Tanzanian business capital of Dar es Salam on Wednesday.
“The Burundian government will have the duty to convince the summit that the country’s next election will be free, fair and peaceful,” Tanzanian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Bernard Membe told Anadolu Agency in Swahili.
“President Nkurunziza will also have to give assurance on the rule of law before and after Burundi’s general election slated for June 26,” he stressed.
For the first time in Burundi’s history, eight candidates have applied to contest the upcoming presidential polls.
In 1993, only three candidates vied for the presidency. In 2005 and 2010 polls, Nkurunziza ran uncontested.
The unprecedented number of presidential candidates comes amid continuing tension in the central African nation over Nkurunziza’s re-election bid.
Wednesday’s summit is expected to discuss how to end to the ongoing political crisis in neighboring Burundi, which has been rocked by protests and clashes since Nkurunziza announced his re-election bid in late April.
At least 21 people have been killed so far and more than 100 injured.
Minister Membe, who led an EAC fact-finding mission to Burundi last week, said they would deliver findings and recommendations at the leader’s summit.
“We will submit to the five regional heads of state our report on the violence in Burundi,” he told Anadolu Agency.
The fact-finding delegation included the foreign ministers of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, who met with leaders of political parties and civil society activists in Burundi.
The opposition and civil society activists accuse Nkurunziza and his ruling party of violating the 2000 Arusha agreement, which ended a deadly conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi.
Critics say a third-term run by Nkurunziza would violate the terms of the 2000 Arusha agreement, which stipulated that Burundi’s president should serve no more than two terms in office.
According to Burundi’s constitution, the president can serve only two terms in office.
Burundi’s Constitutional Court, however, has ruled that Nkurunziza’s third-term bid does not violate the national charter.
The court ruled that, since he was elected in 2005 by parliament and not by the people, Nkurunziza’s first stint in office should not be counted as a first presidential term.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has been in power since 2005, when he was appointed by parliament