02:55 - Source: CNN AP
Clashes in Burundi ahead of election turn deadly

Story highlights

The President has a two-term limit as part of an agreement that ended Burundi's war

Critics say his planned run violates the constitution

CNN  — 

Seconde Nimenya worries every day about her family back in Burundi.

Deadly protests have hit the nation since last month as President Pierre Nkurunziza seeks to extend his 10-year rule.

The President has a two-term limit as part of an agreement that helped end Burundi’s ethnic civil war. Critics say his planned run violates the constitution.

The election commission confirmed Friday that Nkurunziza has officially registered to run in next month’s election.

Burundi’s constitutional court ruled this week that he is eligible because he was picked by parliament, not elected by people, during his first term.

At least seven candidates have registered for the presidential race. Among them is prominent opposition leader Agathon Rwasa, who helped lead rebel fighters in the country’s 1993-2003 civil war.

Street battles

As clashes between police and protesters have raged, the international community has urged both sides to refrain from violence.

The positions of the two sides seem beyond compromise. Depending on what happens, the flows of refugees, already alarming, could increase.

Already, 50,000 refugees have streamed into the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda, half of them in the latter nation, according to the United Nations.

History of tensions

But ethnic tension lies close to the surface in Burundi. The country’s civil war, which lasted from 1993 until 2003. was driven by hatred between Hutus and Tutsis. An estimated 300,000 people were killed.

It boils down to the determination of Nkurunziza to hold onto power and protesters whose goal is to prevent his candidacy. But Burundi’s history of ethnic violence makes it especially vulnerable to deep divisions.

Tensions between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis fueled the country’s civil war. It left an estimated 300,000 people dead.

This time, as the President gets more desperate, the situation can evolve quickly, Nsengiyumva Pierre Claver, a former member of an EU electoral monitoring team, told CNN by phone from Bujumbura.

“The rules in this deadly game now can change so easily,” Claver said. “Because the ruling party is really using the last card they have to use – to go back to ethnic confrontation.

Hutu-Tutsi violence in Burundi would surely inflame animosities in neighboring Rwanda and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Hutus and Tutsis also endure an uneasy coexistence

In the latter two nations, Hutus and Tutsis endure an uneasy coexistence, sparking fears that broader violence could erupt.

Already, 20,000 refugees have streamed into Rwanda; that number seems certain to increase in the coming weeks. Refugees need to be cared for, out of simple humanity. That costs money. Governments will help fund that care. Humanitarian agencies will launch fundraising appeals.

CNN’s Don Melvin and journalist Jean Claude Niyongabo contributed to this report