Bujumbura (dpa) – The opposition in Burundi has suspended its dialogue with the government after a party leader was shot dead, the main opposition party said Sunday.
“The climate is not conducive for talks,” said Bernard Ndayisenga from the National Forces of Liberation (FNL).
Zedi Feruzi, leader of the small opposition party Union for Peace and Democracy (UPD), was gunned down in the capital Bujumbura as he was returning home on foot late Saturday.
One of his three bodyguards was also killed, the government said. Another bodyguard and a journalist accompanying him were wounded.
The presidency denied claims by witnesses that the assailants, who escaped, were wearing the uniforms of the presidential guard, Radio France Internationale reported.
Feruzi’s supporters – thousands of who accompanied his coffin on Sunday – said he might have been targeted because he had encouraged the recent protests.
They also claimed that another reason could be his close relations with Hussein Radjabu, a former secretary general of the ruling CNDD-FDD party who is now an opponent of the president.
Demonstrations erupted on April 26 against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s plans to seek a third term in June elections, despite the constitution setting a two-term limit. More than 25 people have been killed in the protests.
“There is a sense of fear. We don’t know who will be killed next,” FNL leader Agathon Rwasa said.
The opposition and civil society groups have been holding talks with the government on how to resolve the crisis.
But now “the dialogue will only resume if the president abandons his third-term plans,” Ndayisenga, of the main opposition FNL, said.
While the protesters had announced a pause for the weekend, some of them went ahead and erected barricades in Bujumbura, witnesses said.
“No amount of intimidation will make us back off. We are now more determined and Monday morning we will be on streets,” said a resident of the Bujumbura neighbourhood of Musaga.
The National Security Council on Saturday gave protesters three days to hand over arms stolen from police in the aftermath of a coup attempt last week.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Feruzi’s killing as well as a grenade attack in which two people died during protests earlier this week.
The killing and the attack “threaten to entrench mistrust and trigger further violence,” Ban said.
Nkurunziza announced a postponement of legislative and local elections by 10 days to June 5, but did not delay the presidential polls, which are scheduled for June 26.