The Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the East African Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (EACSOF) have lodged a case at the East African Court of Justice to demand that Burundi postpone its upcoming general election, currently slated for July 15.
Co-defendants listed in the case – which was filed at the court’s registry in Arusha on Monday – include the secretary-general of the East African Community (EAC); Burundi’s attorney-general; Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza; and the head of Burundi’s official electoral commission.
“We filed this case under a certificate of agency,” PALU lawyer Evelyn Chijarira told Anadolu Agency. “We are seeking the court’s leave to hear our application ex parte and stop Burundi’s coming general elections.”
She added: “What’s happening in Burundi now is a total breach of the fundamental principles of the treaty for the establishment of the EAC.”
According to the EAC’s founding charter, member states are bound to provide their citizens with good governance, rule of law and democratic practices.
The EAC is an Arusha-based regional bloc, members of which include Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda.
The plaintiffs also challenged a May decision by Burundi’s constitutional court in which it ruled in favor of President Nkurunziza’s controversial plan to run for a third term in the office, pointing out that the 2000 Arusha Agreement set a two-term limit on Burundi’s presidency.
Since protests first erupted in Burundi in April over Nkurunziza’s plan for a third-term bid, over 70 people have reportedly been killed, while tens of thousands of others have fled to neighboring countries.
“We are calling on all East African citizens to say ‘no’ to leaders who don’t care about their country’s peace and security by ignoring the rule of law, democracy and good governance,” Martha Makenge Makenge, who represents EACSOF, an umbrella group of East African civil society groups, asserted.
On Monday, attendees of an EAC leaders’ summit held in Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam suggested that Burundi’s election be pushed back to July 30.
“[East African] Leaders want the election [postponed] to ensure conditions are conducive for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections,” Richard Othieno Owuora, the EAC’s head of communication, told Anadolu Agency from Dar es Salaam.
Owuora went on to call for mediation efforts aimed at reconciling Burundi’s government and opposition, noting that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had recently appointed a special mediator to this end.
Up until this point, the Burundian government has insisted on holding the polls on July 15 as scheduled, requesting that both the EAC and the African Union send observers to monitor the polls and calling on the country’s opposition to accept the results.
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