(AFP) - Presidential elections in crisis-hit Burundi have been postponed
to July 21, nearly a week later than originally scheduled, the
presidency announced Saturday, amid renewed unrest in the capital and
battles with rebels near the Rwandan border.
A decree signed by
President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose controversial bid to stand for a
third consecutive five-year term has sparked weeks of civil unrest, said
the polls would be moved from July 15 to July 21, with campaigning
extended until the evening of July 18.
Witnesses meanwhile said
at least one person was shot dead in the capital Bujumbura during a
night punctuated by a string of grenade attacks followed by bursts of
heavy gunfire as police responded to the attackers.
official in the north also claimed at least 12 gunmen were killed in
clashes with government troops in near Rugazi, 140 kilometres (85 miles)
north of the capital Bujumbura and in a thickly forested area on the
Rebel Burundian army soldiers who tried but
failed to overthrow Nkurunziza in a coup in mid-May were involved in the
fighting, a rebel general told France24 television.
African nation has been gripped by months of unrest over Nkurunziza's
plan to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, which opposition
groups say is unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that
ended a dozen years of civil war in 2006.
There are fears the crisis could plunge the landlocked, impoverished nation back into war.
armed group entered from Rwanda and attacked very early yesterday
morning," said Canisius Ndayimanisha, governor of Kayanza province. "The
local population alerted a military post and there were two battles
which left 12 of the attackers dead."
He added that the group was believed to be around 500-strong, and that the remaining fighters had "disappeared into the forest".
- 'Rebels across the country' -
to France24 television late Friday, Burundian rebel general Leonard
Ngendakumana -- who took part in the failed coup in May to topple
Nkurunziza -- said rebel soldiers were involved in the fighting.
soldiers were attacked by the army and responded. They inflicted
several losses on Nkurunziza's forces," he told the station.
No independent confirmation of the rival casualty claims was immediately available.
rebel general also denied his soldiers had crossed from Rwanda,
dismissing the allegation as government "propaganda" and insisting rebel
soldiers were present in many parts of the country.
Ngendakumana, a former top intelligence officer, is an ally of coup
leader General Godefroid Niyombare, who has been on the run since their
attempt to seize power was thwarted.
The five-nation East African
Community (EAC), which has been trying to mediate an end to the crisis,
had on Monday called for elections to be delayed by two weeks, to July
30, to allow time for more talks between Nkurunziza's ruling CNDD-FDD
party and opposition groups -- although these talks have so far made no
Parliamentary polls, in which the CNDD-FDD scored a
widely-expected landslide win, were held on May 29 but boycotted by the
opposition and internationally condemned.
Opposition and rights
groups argue that weeks of protests and a violent crackdown by security
forces mean free and fair elections are impossible.
has also been left without most of its independent media outlets, after
several radio stations were attacked and destroyed in fighting during
the attempted coup.
Over 70 people have been killed in more than
two months of protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to
neighbouring countries, according to the latest UN figures.