Burundi is going to the polls amid rising tensions and the African Union is out of options to help

Elections amid tensions and instability in Burundi
Elections amid tensions and instability in Burundi
Image: Reuters/Stringer photographer
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Seventeen opposition parties will boycott elections as Burundians vote for their local and parliamentary representatives today. This comes after weeks of protests over president Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third-term. There have been numerous calls for Burundi to postpone its elections, the African Union has said it cancelled its observer mission for Burundi’s elections, citing unfavourable political conditions.

It’s not just the AU leaving Burundi’s leadership out in the cold. Reuters reports the European Union (EU) has also withdrawn its observer mission, arguing the credibility of the elections would be compromised without peace and stability.

There have reports of grenade attacks and two deaths in the run-up to the polling day for local elections. The presidential elections are currently scheduled for July 15.

Nkurunziza’s controversial third-term bid has seen tensions rising in the country for several weeks especially after a failed coup attempt back in mid-May. Since then his government has cracked down on independent media reporting about dissent and opposition to his rule.

The AU has run out of options

Liesl Louw, an AU peace and security analyst based at the Institute for Security Studies, told Quartz though the African Union (AU) has been criticised in the past for not acting swiftly in similar situations, it has done its best with the Burundi saga.

“Since the middle of last year, the commission took a number of steps to prevent a constitutional crisis in Burundi. The AU sent a commissioner for peace and security last year, the [AU] chair, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has visited Burundi numerous times calling for peace talks. Even at the recent AU summit, a number of proposals to demilitarize militias and a peace-keeping force were suggested, but Nkurunziza’s government has not acceded to these.” said Louw

When asked about what further options exist for the AU to intervene, besides calling for peace talks and applying pressure on Nkurunziza, Louw said that the AU’s hands are tied.

“Unfortunately, the AU does not have a binding resolution on constitutional changes or violations for its member states. The only standing resolution is on coup d’etats, should a coup happen in any AU member state, the AU can move for expulsion.”