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Burundi president registers to run for third term as tensions simmer

Court official says judges subjected to death threats to favor the re-election bid of Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi's president registered on Friday to run for a third term, in a move likely to stoke anger among protesters opposing his bid for another five years in office.

Crowds have taken to the streets of the capital, Bujumbura, and clashed with police for almost two weeks. They say Pierre Nkurunziza's plan to run for office for a third term violates the constitution, which limits a president to two terms, and a peace deal that ended an ethnically wcharged civil war between Tutsis and Hutus in 2005.

At least 18 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when the ruling CNDD-FDD nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election, triggering daily protests. 

The constitutional court has ruled in favor of Nkurunziza, saying his first presidential term did not count, as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

The court's vice-president, however, fled the country to neighboring Rwanda after refusing to sign the ruling, claiming judges had been subjected to death threats.

“If we did not give the third term a green light, we were going to be in trouble,” Sylvere Nimpagaritse said.

Opponents say the court is biased. They have vowed to keep protesting until he withdraws from the race, and have called for the election to be delayed due to the unrest.

“For me, the electoral schedule has to be respected,” Nkurunziza, a former rebel with the Hutu majority, said after registering at the election commission, known as CENI. “I would like to say that 99 percent of Burundi is in peace, demonstrations are just happening in a small part of Bujumbura.”

Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, has come under intense international pressure to withdraw from the June 26 election. Saturday is the deadline for candidates to register.

Wire services

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