Monday, June 28, 2010

Six held in Burundi on eve of election

Bujumbura - by Sapa/AFP

Burundi police overnight arrested six senior officials from an opposition party, as the troubled Central African nation prepared for a controversial presidential election, officials said.

Six members of the Movement for Solidarity and Development (MSD) were arrested in the capital Bujumbura, including the party's number two Odette Ntahiraja.

"Last night at around 10pm, dozens of policemen arrested six of our party's top officials... as they were enjoying a drink in a bar," MSD chairman Alexis Sinduhije told reporters.

"We condemn what is a plot by the ruling party to destroy the MSD because these people were arrested in spite of the fact that there are no charges against them," he said.

National police spokesperson Pierre Chanel Ntarabaganyi said the six had been arrested on suspicion of planning to disrupt the presidential election due to go ahead on Monday despite an opposition boycott.

"We arrested six people named by a suspect who was detained in Gitega (east of Bujumbura) and who accused them of taking part in a meeting preparing disturbances in tomorrow's presidential poll," he told reporters.

President Pierre Nkurunziza will stand unopposed in the election after all of his rivals pulled out of the race charging that the May 24 local council polls had been rigged by the ruling party.

The presidential poll is the second stage of an electoral marathon that had been seen as a key test of Burundi's democratic credentials and ability to preserve a fledgling peace deal.

Since the dispute broke out a month ago, the run-up to the presidential poll has been marred by around 100 arrests as well as grenade and gun attacks that have killed at least eight and wounded more than 60.