ANOTHER vote, another call to boycott it, and fresh warnings that life may get tougher before it gets better for many in Burundi. Burundians go the polls on May 17, to vote on constitutional amendments that could see President Pierre Nkurunziza, who came to power in 2005, remain in office until 2034.
The lingering effects of a devastating civil war that ended more than a decade ago, a moribund economy, a violent political crisis, and foreign aid cuts have conspired to leave one in four of Burundi’s citizens in need of humanitarian aid. The toll the political tensions leading up to and perhaps following the May 17 poll could exact a high toll on Burundi’s people.
The growing tensions are alsoadding to the anxiety of 170,000 Burundian long-term refugees in neighbouring Tanzania. They face increasing pressure to return despite promises of citizenship from a once-welcoming country, where many of them have spent their entire lives.
In a possible sign of what might lie ahead, on the heels of World Press Freedom Day, Burundi officials said local-language re-broadcasts by VOA and BBC are on hold for six months, according to a tweet from the state broadcaster, further limiting public access to information in the runup to the referendum.