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 Thoughts on Various Subjects

UPDATE 1-Burundi president appears in capital, warns of Islamist threat

* President’s first appearance since coup failed* Says he takes seriously threat from Somalia’s al Shabaab* Nkurunziza’s decision to seek third term sparks crisis

(Adds quotes)By Goran Tomasevic and Njuwa MainaBUJUMBURA, May 17 (Reuters) – Burundian President Pierre
Nkurunziza on Sunday made his first public appearance in the
capital Bujumbura since an attempted coup last week failed to
oust him, warning of a threat posed by Islamist militants from
Somalia.The east African nation was plunged into crisis after
Nkurunziza said he was seeking a third term of office.Critics said the move would be unconstitutional, and there
have been almost daily protests since Nkurunziza’s announcement,
stirring memories of an ethnically driven civil war that ended a
decade ago.

At a news conference, Nkurunziza, who has not been seen in
the capital for days, did not address the crisis in his country
but said he was “very preoccupied” by the threat posed by the al
Qaeda linked militant group al Shabaab.”We take seriously the threat of al Shabaab,” said
Nkurunziza.He did not elaborate, but Burundi contributes forces to an
African Union peacekeeping mission battling al Shabaab in
Somalia. In recent years, the group has attacked Kenya and
Uganda, which also provide troops.

A spokesman for the Islamist group had no immediate comment.Until the coup attempt, protests had occurred almost daily
in the outskirts of Bujumbura. Protesters hurled rocks while
police fired tear gas, water cannon and were also seen firing
guns at the protesters.Diplomats say the longer unrest continues the more chance
that a conflict, which up until now has been largely a struggle
for power, reopens old wounds in a region with a history of
ethnic killing.

More than 105,000 people have fled to neighbouring states,
including next-door Rwanda, with the same ethnic mix as Burundi
and which was torn apart by a genocide in 1994 that killed
800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.At the Gashora camp in Rwanda, Hakizimana Leonidas, a farmer
who said he was a Tutsi, said he fled Burundi a day after last
week’s coup attempt.”I want to see Burundi as a peaceful country but the problem
is that those who could be protecting us are the ones causing
chaos,” said Leonidas, 46.The constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war
both specify a two-term presidential limit. But Nkurunziza is
seeking a third term anyway, relying on a court ruling that his
first term does not count because he was appointed by
parliament, not elected. His opponents and some donors have
questioned the court’s impartiality.The heavy-handed response of the police to demonstrations in
recent weeks has drawn stern rebukes from Western donors, who
have urged the president not to run again, while the African
Union condemned any attempt to seize power through violence.

(Additional reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by
Edith Honan; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Giles Elgood)

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