March 20, 2015 / 12:22 PM / 3 years ago

Tanzania warns of violence in Burundi if president seeks third term

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Peace mediator Tanzania warned of the risk of renewed violence in Burundi if politicians do not abide by a new constitution that would prevent the president there running for another term.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza attends the opening of a coffee conference in the capital Bujumbura February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Jean Pierre Aime Harerimana

Under the Burundian constitution and the terms of a peace deal to end more than a decade of civil war, no leader is supposed to hold power for longer than 10 years.

But supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power in Burundi since 2005, argue his first term should not count since he was picked by lawmakers rather than voted in.

”If people decide to violate the constitution and the Arusha peace agreement, there is a risk of a new violence that will be hard to stop,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said late on Thursday, at the end of a two-day visit to Bujumbura.

Tanzania brokered the deal in 2000 to end fighting between the Burundian Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, which is known as the Arusha peace agreement after the northern Tanzanian city where it was signed.

The deal has helped to end years of ethnic conflict in the tiny east African coffee growing nation but the debate over whether Nkurunziza is eligible to run has angered the opposition.

Nkurunziza has not yet said he will run in June’s election.

There was no immediate reaction from the Burundi government on Kikwete’s comments.

Two weeks ago, the Roman Catholic Church, which is followed by more than two-thirds of the population and played a key role in the peace talks, said the constitution did not permit Nkurunziza to seek a third term.

A visiting U.N. Security Council delegation last week also appealed for strict adherence to the constitution to consolidate the fragile peace in the country.

Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Alison Williams

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