BUJUMBURA, Burundi: Burundians voted Tuesday amid gunfire and grenade blasts, with President Pierre Nkurunziza widely expected to win a third consecutive term despite international condemnation and thousands of people fleeing feared violence.
At least two people—a policeman and a civilian—were killed in a string of explosions and gunfire overnight Monday, with blasts and shootings heard as polls opened shortly after dawn in the capital Bujumbura, the epicenter of three months of anti-government protests.
Willy Nyamitwe, Nkurunziza’s chief communications advisor, condemned the attacks as “terrorist acts” aimed at “intimidating voters.”
Opposition and civil society groups have denounced Nku-runziza’s candidacy as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006.
Around 3.8 million Burun-dians are eligible to vote between 06:00 (0400 GMT) and 16:00 (1300 GMT).
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged calm, calling on all sides to “refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region.”
Critics fear a win by the incumbent will be a hollow victory, leaving him ruling over a deeply divided nation.
With the elections denounced by the opposition as a sham, the 51-year-old president—a former rebel, born-again Christian and football fanatic—is facing no serious competition.
UN electoral observers—the only international monitors in Tuesday’s polls—said the last round of voting took place in a “climate of widespread fear and intimidation.”