One of Burundi’s vice presidents has fled to Belgium, saying he had been threatened after denouncing President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, an allegation denied by the government.
The president’s decision in April to stand again, branded unconstitutional by opponents, triggered weeks of often violent street protests and Burundi’s worst crisis since an ethnically charged civil war ended in 2005.
“I took the decision to leave the country because I was personally threatened,” second vice president Gervais Rufyikiri told France 24 television from Belgium on Wednesday.
“All who are against the third term are threatened. I personally was fearing for my security since I saw some signals.”
A presidential spokesman said Rufyikiri, who left last week, had not been threatened.
The United Nations, African and Western nations have called for dialogue to ease the crisis in a region with a history of ethnic conflict. Talks between rival camps so far have shown little sign of bridging differences.
Rallies have petered out but the mood remains tense. Three grenade attacks in the capital on Thursday injured several people, the latest in a series of similar assaults in the past week that have killed four people and injured dozens in Bujumbura and other towns.
The U.S. embassy said students camped out in a nearby construction site had fled after police entered the area on Thursday, and about 100 had taken refuge in an embassy parking area.