With violence flaring for a second week in Burundi, Secretary John Kerry on Monday said that President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term “flies directly in the face” of the country’s written constitution.
Today, however, a constitutional court backed Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, dismaying protesters that have taken to the streets and clashed with police in demonstrations that have so far claimed the lives of 12 people.
Six out of seven judges voted in favor of the measure, but with an important asterisk to the vote, according to the BBC:
The constitutional court’s vice-president had earlier reportedly fled the country citing “death threats”.
Protests flared in the capital, Bujumbura, after the announcements, with many observers worrying that instability could fan the flames of a dormant civil war between the country’s ethnic Hutus and Tutsis, a conflict that could easily spill beyond the country’s borders:
“While we respect Burundi’s sovereignty in addressing internal matters, Rwanda considers the safety of innocent population as a regional and international responsibility,” [Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo] said in a statement, urging the government to restore peace.
Rwanda, which has vowed to prevent another genocide in the region, could be drawn into the conflict if ethnic fighting erupts and Tutsis become targets, diplomats say.
At least 24,000 mostly Tutsis have fled to Rwanda in recent weeks as tensions have mounted. About 7,000 people have also crossed into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
This could get very ugly in a hurry.