Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza was sworn in for a controversial third term in power on Thursday, well ahead of the August 26 deadline. The surprise ceremony comes amid ongoing political violence.
Nkurunziza took the “oath for a new term of five years”, the presidency said in a statement on Thursday, two days after four people were gunned down in a bar in capital Bujumbara, in an apparent revenge attack on members of the ruling party.
His third term bid was condemned as unconstitutional by the opposition and provoked months of protests. In mid-May, rebel generals attempted a coup, which failed.
Burundi’s constitution only allows a president to be elected twice — for a total of 10 years in power — but before these polls Nkurunziza argued he had only been directly elected by the people once.
The United Nations observer mission said the vote last month was not “inclusive free and credible” and was held “in an environment of profound mistrust” between political rivals.
Nkurunziza won 69.41 percent of the vote, an immediate first round victory.
Escalating political violence
Four people were killed Tuesday night in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura, police reported on Wednesday.
The four friends were shot in a bar, an apparent revenge attack against members of the ruling party, said witnesses in the volatile neighborhood of Musaga.
The killings followed police raids in Musaga earlier on Tuesday in which “a large quantity” of guns were seized, Nkurikiye said, adding “witnesses said that these people had been accused of having informed the police.”
Earlier this month, a former head of the intelligence services and a key ally of the president, Lt. Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Bujumbura, sparking concerns of revenge killings as regime loyalists and opponents target each other. Nshimirimana is believed to have helped the government defeat an attempted military coup in May.
The day after Nshimirimana was killed, there was an assassination attempt on Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent rights activist and government critic.
On Saturday, a former army chief of staff during Burundi’s civil war, Col. Jean Bikomagu, was shot and killed outside his home in Bujumbura.