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Violence As Burundi Votes With Nkurunziza Seeking Re-Election

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A policeman and a civilian were killed in a string of explosions and gunfire overnight, police and witnesses said.

BURUNDIANS voted Tuesday amid gunfire and grenade blasts, with President Pierre Nkurunziza widely expected to win a third straight term despite international condemnation and thousands of people fleeing feared violence.

At least two people—a policeman and a civilian—were killed in a string of explosions and gunfire overnight, police and witnesses said.

Blasts and shootings were also heard as polls opened shortly after dawn in the capital Bujumbura, the epicentre of three months of anti-government protests.

Willy Nyamitwe, Nkurunziza’s chief communications advisor, condemned the attacks as “terrorist acts” aimed at “intimidating voters”.

Opposition and civil society groups have denounced Nkurunziza’s candidacy as unconstitutional and a violation of a peace deal that ended a dozen years of civil war and ethnic massacres in 2006.

Around 3.8 million Burundians are eligible to vote between 6 am (0400 GMT) and 4 pm (1300 GMT). As voting got under way, centres visited by AFP reporters in Bujumbura appeared quiet with few queues.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged calm, calling on all sides to “refrain from any acts of violence that could compromise the stability of Burundi and the region.”

Critics fear a win by the incumbent will be a hollow victory, leaving him ruling over a deeply divided nation.

In one centre, the Saint-Etienne school in the centre of the capital, voters were seen scrubbing off indelible ink from their fingers to avoid reprisals from opposition supporters boycotting the ballot.

“I do not want to return home with ink on the finger,” said one voter.

With the elections denounced by the opposition as a sham, the 51-year-old president—a former rebel, born-again Christian and football fanatic—is facing no serious competition.

“Despite a facade of pluralism, this is an election with only one candidate, where Burundians already know the outcome,” said Thierry Vircoulon from the International Crisis Group, a think-tank that has warned the situation has all the ingredients to kickstart renewed civil war.