President Kenyatta asks Burundian President Nkurunziza to postpone poll
President Uhuru Kenyatta has told Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza to postpone elections due in the next few months after last week’s failed military coup.
State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu wrote on his Twitter feed on Monday that the two leaders, whose nations belong to the East African Community common market, had spoken by phone.
Uhuru’s counterparts in the region shared his view, Esipisu added.
Regional leaders want the election date changed from June 26 to create a “conducive environment” but the vote should still be held within the current electoral cycle, which comes to an end in late August, he said.
Nkurunziza on Sunday made his first public appearance in the capital Bujumbura since an attempted coup last week failed to oust him, warning of a threat posed by militants from Somalia.
At the news conference, Nkurunziza, who has not been seen in the capital for days, did not address the crisis in his country but said he was “very preoccupied” by the threat posed by the al Shabaab.
“We take seriously the threat of al Shabaab,” he said.
He did not elaborate, but Burundi contributes forces to an African Union peacekeeping mission battling al Shabaab in Somalia.
In recent years, the group has attacked Kenya and Uganda, which also provide troops.
A spokesman for the al Shabaab group said Nkurunziza’s remarks were “dumbfounding” and said the problems in Burundi were “clearly domestic.”
“We think that this is an attempt by him to appease his people, who are standing in the streets protesting against his dictatorship, or to divert the world’s attention from him while he possibly prepares his mass revenge,” Sheikh Ali Mahamud Rage said in a statement to Reuters.
The east African nation was plunged into crisis after Nkurunziza said he was seeking a third term of office.
Critics said the move would be unconstitutional and breaks the constitution and a 2005 peace agreement that ended an ethnically driven civil war.
As many as 300,000 people died in the war, and there are fears the current crisis could inflame lingering tensions between the majority Hutu population and the Tutsi minority.
More than 105,000 people have fled to neighbouring states, including Rwanda, which has the same ethnic mix as Burundi and which was torn apart by a genocide in 1994 that killed 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.