Burundi’s Constitutional Court says it has approved President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term.
The statement came on Tuesday as dozens of protesters marched in the capital Bujumbura to say they would “never accept” a campaign they call illegal.
Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would stand in a June 26 vote has plunged Burundi into its worst political crisis since its ethnically fuelled civil war ended a decade ago.
“The renewal of the presidential term through direct universal suffrage for five years is not against the Constitution of Burundi,” a Constitutional Court statement said.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bujumbura on Tuesday, said that people do not accept the ruling as at least four of the seven Constitutional Court judges had fled the country.
Judge Sylvere Nimpagaritse, the Constitutional Court’s vice-president, fled to Rwanda on Monday.
Nimpagaritse told AFP news agency that the court’s judges had come under “enormous pressure and even death threats” from senior figures, which he refused to name, to approve the disputed candidature of the Nkurunziza.
He said that a majority of the court’s seven judges believed it would be unconstitutional for Nkurunziza to stand again, but had faced “enormous pressure and even death threats” to force them to change their mind.
“In my soul and conscience I decided not to put my signature to a ruling, a decision which is clearly not lawful that would be imposed from the outside, and which has nothing legal about it,” Nimpagaritse said.
Following the court’s ruling, Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza offered an olive branch, promising to release hundreds of protesters and reopen radio stations if the demonstrations stop.
“To create a climate of appeasement, the government is willing to release the young people who were arrested,” Bazombanza said.
He also offered to lift arrest warrants issued against key civil society leaders and reopen independent radio stations, provided that “protests and the insurrection stop”.
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