June 12, 2015 / 4:00 PM / 2 years ago

Burundi's Khadja Nin joins anti-Nkurunziza ranks

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Celebrated Burundian singer Khadja Nin added her voice on Friday to the chorus of critics of President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose bid for a third term in office has sparked protests and fears of a return to ethnic conflict in the east African nation.

Celebrated Burundian singer Khadja Nin poses after an interview with Reuters in Johannesburg, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Speaking on the sidelines of an African Union (AU) summit in South Africa, Nin called for greater regional diplomatic pressure on Nkurunziza to step aside before protests in which at least 30 people have died escalated.

Burundi’s political crisis, which many fear could trigger another bout of blood-letting between Hutus and Tutsis in Africa’s Great Lakes region, is on the AU summit agenda but few expect the meeting to produce decisive action.

“It’s too late for talking,” Nin, one of Francophone Africa’s most famous voices, told Reuters.

“I don’t want the European Union to act before the African Union. That would be a shame on the whole continent. The institution would be an empty box.”

The United States has urged regional leaders to tell Nkurunziza not to run and European donors have halted aid.

“If our leaders don’t move today - not tomorrow, today - and take a position, they will be discredited,” Nin said.

The protesters say Nkurunziza’s ambitions break the constitution and a deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005. Around 300,000 people died in more than a decade of fighting.

Nkurunziza, a former Hutu militia leader with mixed Hutu and Tutsi parentage, argues that his bid is legitimate as his first term does not count because he was appointed by parliament, not directly elected.

A presidential election scheduled for the end of this month has already been pushed back to mid-July but the delay has done nothing to bridge the divide between the two camps.

Echoing the defiance on the streets, Nin said oppression would never triumph over the desire for greater democracy.

“You can kill us, but you can never kill all of us,” she said.

Reporting by Ed Cropley; Editing by James Macharia

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