Fears that the elections in Burundi slated for May 20 could be marred by violence peaked last week after a grenade attack in Bujumbura left 12 people wounded.
The explosion came in the same week that 90 people were arrested in connection with skirmishes during campaigns, with the government insisting that any East African Community (EAC) election observers would have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine on setting foot in the country.
The government said three people were killed during the first week of the campaigns in the attacks between the ruling party-affiliated group Imbonerakure and opposition party CNL supporters.
“Political leaders should stop preaching hate speech as we have seen some leaders do, for no crime will go unpunished,” said Pierre Nkurikiye, spokesman of the Burundi Public Security Minister.
“Those who think they will destabilise the country like in 2015 are dreaming because there will be enough security and whoever wants to cause instability will be arrested,” he added.
Opposition members have accused the government and the ruling party of trying to stifle them. CNL party leader and opposition presidential candidate Agathon Rwasa said more than 200 of his supporters, including candidates who contested for legislative and local government, were arrested.
“We have seen these acts of intimidation and harassment targeting our supporters and candidates all this shows how weak they are,” said Mr Rwasa.
Mr Rwasa will be facing off with ruling CNND-FDD party presidential nominee Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is the chosen successor of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power for 15 years. Police accused Mr Rwasa and his party members of incitement to violence during the campaigns.
“We have seen and have a proof of them calling for violence but every crime committed will be punished for,” said Mr Nkurikiye.
EAC’s hope of observing the Burundi elections were dealt a blow after ministry in charge of EAC affairs insisted on a 14-day quarantine in line with anti-Covid 19 measures.