Early reports from Burundi’s national broadcaster show vote totals that overwhelmingly favor President Pierre Nkurunziza’s referendum to extend presidential term limits, which would theoretically allow him to remain in office until 2034.
Burundi National Radio and Television began reporting returns early Friday from some half-dozen precincts that showed referendum “yes” votes outpacing the no votes by the thousands. In the community of Buhinyuza, for example, there were 26,735 votes in favor of the referendum, and just 2,904 no votes, as reported to RTNB by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI).
The Bujumbura-based state media reported at least one arrest in Burundi’s Southern Province after a man tried to persuade voters at a polling station to oppose the referendum, and another in Gitega for trying to influence the outcome.
RTNB also said there were few observers from among the “no” advocates, while representatives of the ruling CNDD-FDD and aligned political parties were highly visible at polling stations.
Pierre Claver Ndayicariye, president of CENI, told Ikiriho news that there were a few incidents and irregularities but none that would significantly alter voting results. That contrasted with reports that groups of the Imbonerakure, the CNDD-FDD youth wing, were walking the streets and demanding that people vote on the referendum.
A Human Rights Watch report last month found the Imbonerakure and government forces responsible for the intimidation and killing of political opposition figures and supporters, as well as journalists and NGOs.
“Burundian officials and the Imbonerakure are carrying out violence with near-total impunity to allow Nkurunziza to entrench his hold on power,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director for the international NGO.