BUJUMBURA. — Burundi’s security forces began clearing barricades in the capital Bujumbura yesterday after the government ordered an immediate end to protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid.Protesters have pledged to continue weeks of street demonstrations, branding the order a “declaration of war”.Police were deployed early yesterday morning while some people were still sleeping and others were preparing to go to church. “They surprised us,” said Claude, a 25-year old student protester.
“Even if they clear the barricades we will rebuild them. There has been a lot of gunfire and some wounded,” he said.
“The military came to tell us that the roads were to be cleared and we could not resist armed men with guns. We decided to let it go,” said Fabrice, a leader of the protest movement.
At least 19 people have died since Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for a third term in elections due next month, sparking weeks of angry demonstrations.
The latest confrontations between demonstrators and security forces came after a one day “truce” declared by protest leaders on Saturday allowed a semblance of normality to return to Bujumbura.
In a decision issued on Saturday, the national security council demanded an “immediate and unconditional” end to what it said was an “insurgency” and ordered security forces to remove all barricades “within 48 hours, in Bujumbura and the rest of the country”.
Protesters angrily dismissed the order.
The army has so far played a neutral role, often coming between stone-throwing protesters and police and is popular among protesters who believe it protects them from the police. But tensions have begun to appear in recent days. — AFP.