Burundi goes to the polls

At least 1109 voters are expected to vote at the polling station located at « Kwi Bubu » Basic School in Musama locality in Kabanga zone of Giheta commune in Gitega Province, this May 20.

Evariste Ndayishimiye, the CNDD-FDD ruling party’s presidential candidate and native of this locality is expected to cast vote in this center.

According to Iwacu reporters on the ground, three voting centers established in the locality have opened since 6:00 a.m. Security forces and the journalists were the first to vote.

There are only CNL and CNDD-FDD party observers who add to those from CASAF, a local civil society organization and the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission.
However, voting cards continue to be distributed in area. According to Iwacu reporters, voters continue to receive their voting cards on the line.

Older women who are not able to vote by themselves are helped by other people.
Since COVID-19 has been reported in Burundi, voters in Musama locality must wash their hands before entering the voting centers and are helped by agents of the Red Cross while the staff members of the voting centers wear masks.

In Ciri locality of Kiremba Commune in Ngozi Province in the north of the country, voters were already in queue since 5:00 a.m.

They started to vote since 6:00 a. m. Agathon Rwasa, presidential candidate for the opposition CNL party is expected to cast his vote at this voting center.

The Army and police officers secure the area. Political party observers are only from CNDD-FDD and CNL parties in four voting centers established in this locality. According to Iwacu reporters, voters continue to vote peacefully.

Two CNL party observers have however been arrested by the communal administrator in Musama locality of Giheta Commune. The reasons behind their arrest are still unknown.

In the economic capital Bujumbura, people line up in long queues at the polling station located at “Jardin Public” Basic School in Nyakabiga neighborhood. It is in the central Bujumbura.

At 7.45 a.m., polling stations were already open. The residents of Nyakabiga had started to vote. The police officers assigned to this polling station ensure order.
They help voters stand in line. The elderly, pregnant women, people living with disabilities are privileged.

A police officer assigned to this place says he has been refused permission to vote at this polling station because he does not have a voting card and has not been registered at this registration center.

“I got registered at Stella Matutina Basic School registration center. I could not withdraw my voting card. I thought I was going to vote here but I couldn’t be allowed,” says the police officer adding that he cannot leave the polling station.

Pierre-Claver Kazihise, chairman of the National Independent electoral commission (CENI) said at a press conference held on 18 May that
Burundian citizens who were not able to withdraw their voting cards would vote if they presented their identity cards and were on the voter lists.

He also announced that everyone would vote in the polling station where they got registered except CENI agents, observers of political parties, local observers, police officers, bodyguards of senior government officials as well as journalists.

These elections are taking place while access to social media has been blocked throughout the country.