Demonstrator shot dead as protests erupt outside Burundi capital

Burundi demonstrator shot dead as protest erupts in south

Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - A demonstrator was shot dead and two others wounded in southern Burundi on Monday, a local official and witness said, in one of the first confirmed reports of civil unrest erupting outside the capital Bujumbura.

The protester was killed when police opened fire on a group of around a hundred demonstrators in Muyange in Bururi province, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of the capital, the sources said.

Unrest was also reported in Matana, also in Bururi province.

In Bujumbura, where protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term have been most sustained, 21 people were wounded Monday, the Red Cross said.

Calm returned to the capital by early evening.

Protests in the small central African nation broke out in late April, but the violence -- which has left at least 30 dead -- has largely been confined to Bujumbura.

Nkurunziza has insisted that the unrest has only affected four districts of the city, and that there is "peace and security in 99.9 percent of the country".

In Cibitoke, a district of the capital that has been at the heart of the protest movement, several hundred youths, singing and chanting slogans, were able to throw up barricades.

Police moved in to break up the protests, with five stone-throwing demonstrators receiving gunshot wounds.

Elsewhere in the city, demonstrators also clashed with members of the Imbonerakure, the ruling CNDD-FDD party's youth wing.

- Anger over weekend killing -

Activists and opposition leaders had called for street protests to be stepped up after three people died and 40 others were wounded in a grenade attack on Friday evening, and after the leader of a small opposition party, Zedi Feruzi, was gunned down along with a bodyguard in the capital on Saturday.

"We started blocking the road at 4:00 am because of the assassination," said Cadet, a 32-year-old teacher and protester in Cibitoke.

The influential Catholic Church, which is also opposed to Nkurunziza, had called for a 24-hour break in protests until Tuesday.

Burundi's crisis, which began after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June 26 presidential election, deepened earlier this month when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.

Parliamentary polls, initially set to take place on Tuesday, have been postponed to June 5.

Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza's bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution as well as the terms of a peace deal that ended a 13-year civil war in 2006.

That conflict, marked by brutal ethnic violence between the country's ethnic Hutu and Tutsi communities, left hundreds of thousands dead, and there are fears the latest unrest could plunge the small, landlocked and impoverished nation back into widespread violence.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian, argues that his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

He has so far resisted the protests and international pressure and intends to maintain his bid for another term, for which he has strong support in rural areas and among sections of the Hutu majority.

After Feruzi's death, the anti-Nkurunziza coalition said it would no longer engage in UN and African Union-brokered talks with the government.

Only the heads of state of countries in the region, who are scheduled to meet in the coming days, will be able to break the impasse, a diplomatic source said.

Refugees meanwhile continue to flee the violence, most to neighbouring Tanzania, where over 50,000 people are struggling to survive in dire conditions on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Cholera has broken out in squalid camps, where at least 31 people have died among a total of over 3,000 cases of the disease, whose numbers are increasing by up to 400 cases a day, according to the UN refugee agency.