0212 GMT February 19, 2020
The constitutional court said on Tuesday that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term “by direct universal suffrage for five years is not contrary to the constitution of Burundi.” Press TV reported.
The verdict was signed by six out of seven judges.
The seventh judge, Sylvere Nimpagaritse, fled the African country on Monday, saying he did not want to be involved in the process of making an illegal decision.
He said he “decided not to put my signature to a ruling, a decision which is clearly not lawful that would be imposed from the outside, and which has nothing legal about it.”
Nimpagaritse said that the court’s judges had received “enormous pressure and even death threats” from senior officials, whom he refused to name, to authorize Nkurunziza’s controversial candidacy.
He claimed that a majority of the court’s seven judges believed it would be unconstitutional for the president to stand again.
The departure comes after more than a week of violent protests in the central African country against a controversial bid by President Nkurunziza for a third term in office.
At least 13 people have died, including four protesters who were shot dead by police on Monday.
About 600 people have been arrested during a week of demonstrations.
On Sunday, the Burundin army’s chief of staff General Prime Niyongabo said that the military “remains and will remain a republican and loyalist army that is respectful of the laws and rules of Burundi and of those who govern it.”
Niyongabo’s remarks came after Burundian Defense Minister Major General Pontien Gaciyubwenge declared the army’s neutrality and called for an end to attacks on citizens’ rights.
The National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy, which is the ruling party in Burundi and known by its French acronym CNDD-FDD, has designated Nkurunziza as its candidate for the June 26 presidential election.
Burundi’s opposition argues that the bid runs against the Arusha Agreement, which ended the civil war of 1993, which lasted about a dozen years and claimed the lives of over 250,000 people.
Nkurunziza is a former rebel leader from the majority Hutu tribe.
In October 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically-elected president of Burundi who came from the Hutu ethnic group, was assassinated after only 100 days in office. The assassination triggered deadly ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis, another ethnic group in Burundi.
Under Burundi’s constitution, presidents are limited to serving only two full terms. Supporters of Nkurunziza argue that his first term does not count due to the fact that he was selected by the parliament at the time.