Organisations go to court to stop Burundi poll

Wednesday July 8 2015

A Burundian police officer stands guard in a

A Burundian police officer stands guard in a street in the Burundian capital yesterday in the wake of a crisis surrounding President Nkurunziza’s bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term in office. PHOTO | AFP 

By Peter Saramba,The Citizen Correspondent

Arusha. As East Africa Community (EAC) leaders were pondering the Burundi crisis in Dar es Salaam on Monday, lawyers were busy filing a case in Arusha to stop the July 15 presidential election.

EAC leaders met in an extraordinary summit and asked  Burundi to push back the election to July 30.

On the same day, the Pan African Lawyers Union (Palu) and East African Civil Society Organisations’ Forum (Eacsof) filed a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against the Republic of Burundi, seeking an order to stop the election.

Other defendants in the case filed at the court’s registry in Arusha on Monday are the EAC Secretary-General, Attorney General of the Republic of Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Burundi’s Independent Electoral Commission (Ceni).

Speaking shortly after filing the case, Ms Evelyn Chijarira from Palu said they had requested for a quick hearing because the election was only a week away.

“We filed this case under a certificate of urgency. We are requesting the court to hear our application as a matter of urgency and stop Burundi’s forthcoming election.

“What is happening in Burundi is in breach of fundamental and operational principles of the treaty that established the EAC,” Ms Chijarira said.

According to articles 5(3)(f), 6(d), 7(2), 8(1)(c) and (f) and 8(5) of the treaty,  all partner states have an obligation to uphold good governance, rule of law and democracy.

Other matters brought before the court by the applicants for determination are the decision of the Constitutional Court of Burundi to rule in favour of President Nkurunziza’s quest for a third term.

Ms Chijarira said President Nkurunziza had also violated the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi of 2000 by seeking a third term.  The agreement set a maximum of two presidential terms.

Eacsof representative Martha Makenge said the forum was particularly concerned with the deaths of at least 70 people in weeks of violence in Burundi and the more than 140,000 people who had fled to neighbouring countries.

“We are calling on all East African citizens to stand up and say ‘no’ to leaders who don’t care about peace and security by ignoring the rule of law, democracy and good governance,” she said.

On Monday,  EAC leaders asked Burundi to delay the election by two weeks until July 30 to give room to reconciliation talks.

They said the rival parties  should give peace talks a chance ahead of the  election.

The meeting appointed President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to mediate between President Nkurunziza’s party and the opposition.

The unrest erupted in Burundi in April after the ruling CNDD-FDD announced that President Nkurunziza would run for a third term in the election that was earlier scheduled for June 26.