Burundi Expels Rwandan Diplomat As Tensions Rise

burundiBurundi has expelled a senior Rwandan diplomat, officials said on Wednesday, in what is the latest sign of tension between the Central African neighbours that share a history of ethnic conflict.

Burundi was plunged into crisis six months ago, when President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would seek a third term ignited weeks of protests and a failed coup. Nkurunziza went on to win a July 21 vote, but opposition groups have accused his government of a violent crackdown against them.

Rwanda, which endured a genocide in 1994, has expressed alarm about the situation in Burundi and its regional implications.

A Permanent Secretary in Burundi’s Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation, Salvator Ntacobamaze, said that the diplomat, Desire Nyaruhirira, had been expelled but declined to give any further explanation.

Government spokesman, Phillipe Nzobonariba, said that the expulsion was most likely due to the diplomat’s alleged contacts “with putschists hosted in Rwanda”.

“It is not a problem with a country but a problem with an individual since he is reported to be in permanent contact with coup plotters,” he said.

Rwanda had no immediate comment.

Opposition groups have accused Burundi’s government of launching a crackdown since May, when crowds first took to the streets saying Nkurunziza’s bid for a third presidential term was unconstitutional.

Burundian security personnel have been accused of conducting frequent raids in parts of the capital Bujumbura that are known to be opposition strongholds.

A row broke out this week at a prison in central Burundi after police tried to move 28 prisoners tied to efforts to topple Nkurunziza into isolation. Inmates blocked the police from entering, while opposition leaders said they feared for the prisoners’ lives.

The police on Wednesday succeeded in isolating the 28 prisoners, prison officials said, with no deaths reported.

Votes Count In Burundi Controversial Election

Pierre Nkurunziza-on-burundi-electionPeople in Burundi have cast their votes in tension over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to stand for a third consecutive term.

Presently, the votes are being counted under three-quarters of the country’s 3.8m eligible voters who turned out on Tuesday after a night of gunfire and explosions that claimed lives.

Ballots would continue to be tallied on Wednesday, but officials have said that they do not expect the results to be announced until Thursday.

Shortly before voting started on Tuesday, a policeman and a civilian were killed amid a string of explosions and gunfire in the capital Bujumbura, the epicenter of three months of anti-government protests.

Two policemen were shot dead in the capital Bujumbura on Monday night, said Willy Nyamitwe, the President’s chief communications adviser.

The body of an opposition official was found earlier on a road.

The US State Department had joined critics in saying the election lacks credibility.

Meanwhile, the government accused the opposition of provoking violent protests.

President Nkurunziza is running for a third term despite a limit of two terms in the constitution.