Just three weeks before Burundi’s presidential elections, one of the country’s two vice-presidents, Gervais Rufyikiri, has fled the country.
Speaking to France24 from Belgium, Rufyikiri said he fled after receiving threats for opposing president Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term—a move that set of violent protests in the central African country.
“I left because I was not able to continue to support the attitude of the president, his desire to lead the people of Burundi on the path of illegality,” he told France 24.
At least 150,000 civilians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, mostly Rwanda and Tanzania, since the outbreak of violence on 26 April, the International Business Times (IBT) reports. That’s when Burundi’s governing party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), nominated Nkurunziza to stand for a third term, despite the country’s constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement (pdf) prohibiting a president from serving more than two terms.
Rufyikiri is not the first senior figure to flee. In May, the vice-president of Burundi’s constitutional court, Sylvere Nimpagaritse, took refuge in Rwanda, claiming he felt threatened by an order to the court to legitimize president Nkurunziza’s third-term reelection.
Former cabinet ministers from the country’s governing party have also defected, also raising concerns about the legality of Nkurunziza’s third-term bid.
Today, a series of grenade attacks in the country’s capital, Bujumbura, left three people dead and nine injured, the IBT reported. These attacks come amid rumors of a potential second coup, led by groups opposing Nkurunziza.
The situation remains tense as Burundi gears up for elections, despite warnings from the African Union to postpone until stability is guaranteed.