Violence closes Burundi polling stations

Violence closes Burundi polling stations

BUJUMBURA – Scattered violence forced the early closure of more than 250 polling stations in Burundi on Friday, threatening to mar local elections critical to the country’s peace process after more than a decade of civil war.

The attacks, including grenade blasts and the shooting of a United Nations peacekeeper, left one dead and several wounded and came as Burundians chose municipal councillors in the country’s first vote for elected officials since the ethnically driven war erupted in 1993. The violence caused 260 of about 6 000 polling stations to close at midday, by which time an estimated 40 per cent to 45 per cent of Burundi’s 3,4-million registered voters had cast ballots, the UN said.However, Burundian and UN officials stressed the violence was limited to areas in and around the capital, where the country’s last remaining Hutu rebel group is active, and that polling in much of the country was peaceful.Carolyn McAskie, chief of the UN mission in Burundi (Onub), which has about 5 000 peacekeepers assisting the country’s security forces in providing security for the polls, commended voters on a “good turnout”.Most attacks occurred in the capital, where three people were wounded in a grenade attack; the adjacent province of Bujumbura Rural, where a grenade killed one person and injured another and a South African UN peacekeeper was shot and wounded; and the neighbouring province of Bubanza, officials said.Neither the police nor the army could say immediately who was responsible for the violence, but blamed it on people intending to disrupt the election, a sentiment shared by Onub, which urged Burundians to vote despite the attacks.Despite the security breaches, many of Burundi’s 3,4-million registered voters jostled to cast ballots in most of the 129 constituencies.”I came because I want to live peacefully,” said one young woman in Bujumbura, a university student who gave her name as Clarisse.”We should be led by the people we have chosen.”- Nampa-AFPThe violence caused 260 of about 6 000 polling stations to close at midday, by which time an estimated 40 per cent to 45 per cent of Burundi’s 3,4-million registered voters had cast ballots, the UN said.However, Burundian and UN officials stressed the violence was limited to areas in and around the capital, where the country’s last remaining Hutu rebel group is active, and that polling in much of the country was peaceful.Carolyn McAskie, chief of the UN mission in Burundi (Onub), which has about 5 000 peacekeepers assisting the country’s security forces in providing security for the polls, commended voters on a “good turnout”.Most attacks occurred in the capital, where three people were wounded in a grenade attack; the adjacent province of Bujumbura Rural, where a grenade killed one person and injured another and a South African UN peacekeeper was shot and wounded; and the neighbouring province of Bubanza, officials said.Neither the police nor the army could say immediately who was responsible for the violence, but blamed it on people intending to disrupt the election, a sentiment shared by Onub, which urged Burundians to vote despite the attacks.Despite the security breaches, many of Burundi’s 3,4-million registered voters jostled to cast ballots in most of the 129 constituencies.”I came because I want to live peacefully,” said one young woman in Bujumbura, a university student who gave her name as Clarisse.”We should be led by the people we have chosen.”- Nampa-AFP

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