Burundi opposition figure shot dead in capital – activist

Burundi’s opposition figure and his bodyguard have been shot dead by gunmen, adding to tensions after a month of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.

BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI (MAY 23, 2015) (REUTERS) – A Burundi opposition figure and his bodyguard were shot dead in the capital by gunmen on Saturday (May 23), residents and witnesses said, adding to tensions after a month of protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.

Zedi Feruzi, the head of opposition party UPD, and his bodyguard were killed in the Ngagara district. Residents said he was killed near his home.

A neighbour said he heard the gun shots being fired.

“I was like 10 to 15 meters away when I heard shots being fired, we didn’t know what it was. I got there and found out it was my neighbour who had been killed and it’s someone big. He is the leader of UPD, he was opposed to CNDD-FDD, he was against the third term, and I think they killed him like this because he was against the third term, he was opposed to Peter ruling, that is why they have killed him,” said Manyetifi, an eye witness and Feruzi ‘s neighbour.

Another neighbour said the army was present but did not respond to the killings.

“There were military soldiers here but they did nothing to help, that is why right now we don’t know who has killed him (Feruzi) but all we know is he is a big person, so this is something involving politics, so right now we are very worried that there is no security where we live,” Vebeon said.

Feruzi’s relatives conducted Muslim rituals before his body was covered with a sheet.

Burundi is facing its deepest crisis since the end of an ethnically fuelled civil war in 2005. The unrest was triggered by the president’s decision to seek another five years in office.

Opponents, such as Feruzi, have said it is unconstitutional.

The president has shown no sign of backing down, pointing to a constitutional court ruling that said he can run again because his first term, when he was picked by parliament not elected in a popular vote, did not count.

The crisis has already prompted a failed coup and driven more than 110,000 people to flee to neighbouring states for fear the violence will spread beyond the capital. It has unnerved a region that has a history of ethnic conflict.

Feruzi, a member of the African nation’s relatively small Muslim community, was a well-known figure although his party was not among the nation’s biggest. Burundi has dozens of registered parties.

Ngagara district has been one of the hotbeds of unrest during protests that have taken place almost daily since Nkurunziza announced his re-election bid on April 25.

The presidential election is due to be held on June 26. Parliamentary and local council polls will now be held on June 5, delayed by a little more than week.

After the shooting, residents in that area of Ngagara swiftly set up make-shift barricades on the streets for protection, an increasingly common sight throughout even quiet neighbourhoods of the capital.