BURUNDI: Tutsi-dominated parties call for a 'no' vote in referendum

BUJUMBURA, 21 February 2005 (IRIN) - Three Tutsi-dominated parties in Burundi, including the main Union pour le progress national (UPRONA), have called on Burundians to vote against the country's proposed post-transitional constitution during a referendum set for 28 February, terming it exclusionist and dictatorial.

"Voting no to the referendum is not a negation of democracy or peace, but rather saying no to exclusion and a refusal of dictatorship in Burundi," Jean Baptiste Manwangari, the UPRONA chairman, said on Saturday following a meeting of the party's central committee.

UPRONA holds that the post-transition constitution was drafted and adopted by Hutu-dominated parties, to the exclusion of the Tutsi-dominated ones.

Manwangari said UPRONA's central committee believed the 'no vote' was a call to dialogue and reconciliation, and would act as a warning that political debate had not ended.

In 2004, the Tutsi-dominated parties boycotted cabinet meetings held to analyse the constitution and walked out of the parliament during the adoption of the draft constitution.

In a statement issued on Monday, another Tutsi-dominated party, the Rally for Democracy and Economic Development (Raddes), also called upon its supporters to vote no for the same reasons.

UPRONA and Raddes join another Tutsi-dominated party, the Party for National Recovery (PARENA) of former President Jean Baptiste Bagaza, which had announced its stand late in 2004, urging its supporters to vote against the referendum.

On Friday, most political parties, with the exception of UPRONA and three others, signed a code of good conduct to guide them during the electoral campaign.

The code commits the political parties to respect each another, avoid intimidation, defamation, and incitation to violence, confrontation and the use of state means during the campaign.

The parties also pledged to accept the results of elections.

On their part, the leaders of the political parties urged the government to guarantee them security, equal access to media and equal funding for their campaigns.

The chairman of the National Communication Council, Jean Pierre Manda, urged the media to remain neutral in its coverage of the electoral campaigns.

Campaigns for the last democratic elections held in 1993 were characterised by intimidation, defamation and even incitement to violence.

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