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Incumbent president is sole candidate as opposition charges vote-rigging

President Pierre Nkurunziza will run unopposed as Burundi's voters head to the polls on Monday after all the other candidates pulled out, accusing the ruling party of vote-rigging. Police detained six senior opposition officials overnight.


AFP - Burundi's police arrested six senior officials from an opposition party overnight, amid a surge in grenade attacks ahead of a controversial presidential election, officials said Sunday.

Six members of the Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD) were arrested in the capital Bujumbura, including the party's number two Odette Ntahiraja.

"Last night at around 10:00 pm (2000 GMT), dozens of policemen arrested six of our party's top officials ... as they were enjoying a drink in a bar," MSD chairman Alexis Sinduhije told AFP.

"We condemn what is a plot by the ruling party to destroy the MSD because these people were arrested in spite of the fact that there are no charges against them," he said.

National police spokesman Pierre Chanel Ntarabaganyi said the six had been arrested on suspicion of planning to disrupt the presidential election due to go ahead on Monday despite an opposition boycott.

"We arrested six people named by a suspect who was detained in Gitega (east of Bujumbura) and who accused them of taking part in a meeting preparing disturbances in tomorrow's presidential poll," he told AFP.

President Pierre Nkurunziza will stand unopposed in the election after all of his rivals pulled out of the race charging that the May 24 local council polls had been rigged by the ruling party.

The presidential poll is the second stage of an electoral marathon that had been seen as a key test of Burundi's democratic credentials and ability to preserve a fledgling peace deal.

Since the dispute broke out a month ago, the run-up to the presidential poll has been marred by around 100 arrests as well as grenade and gun attacks that have killed at least eight and wounded more than 60.

According to police and army sources contacted by AFP, six grenades exploded in Bujumbura overnight and six more in other parts of the country.

"Last night, we recorded a surge in violence in the capital and elsewhere... These grenades are used to terrorise and intimidate the population and scare them away from polling stations," army spokesman Gaspard Baratuza said.

The opposition returned the accusation and said that some residents in northern opposition strongholds were forced to flee and cross the border into Rwanda.

"There are acts of intimidation in Kirundo province against people who didn't vote for the ruling party," said Bonaventure Niyoyankana, chairman of the opposition Uprona pary.

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