Burundi president warns of 'severe sanctions' against protesters

Fri May 1, 2015 10:50am EDT
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By Edmund Blair and Patrick Nduwimana

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza warned on Friday of tough measures against those staging protests against his decision to seek a third term, a move opponents say violates the constitution and endangers a peace deal.

Chanting anti-Nkurunziza songs and blocking a road with boulders, hundreds of protesters gathered in Bujumbura's southern suburb of Musaga on Friday, the sixth day of protests. Unlike previous days, there were no scuffles with police.

Urging protesters to stay off the streets, Nkurunziza said the demonstrations were illegal and announced a new judiciary commission would investigate the "insurrectional movement".

"Within one month, the commission will issue its report, severe sanctions will be taken against those who will be found guilty," Nkurunziza said in Labour Day message broadcast on Friday but recorded on Thursday.

The protests have sparked the biggest political crisis since an ethnically-fueled civil war ended in 2005.

The U.N. said it was alarmed by reports intelligence and security agencies had used live ammunition during protests. It added that one credible report suggested more than 400 people have been arrested and held in overcrowded conditions.

"Detainees have also been beaten, particularly on their feet and buttocks, with some of those released having trouble walking due to the beating," said U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville, citing the report.

The government could not be immediately reached to comment.   Continued...

A protester throws stones at a burning car belonging to members of Burundi's police force who were detained by paramilitary officers, accused by civilians for shooting and killing a national military officer, during clashes between protesters and riot police in Burundi's capital Bujumbura April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya