Burundi elections: President Nkurunziza seeks 3rd term amidst protests

Updated 11:46 AM EDT, Tue July 21, 2015

Story highlights

Scores have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza said he will run again

Critics say a third term by him is prohibited by a peace accord that ended the 1993-2003 civil war

(CNN) —  

Polls opened in Burundi on Tuesday for a controversial presidential election where sitting leader Pierre Nkurunziza is seeking an unprecedented third term despite calls against his candidacy.

Scattered gunfire could be heard in the streets of the capital, Bujumbura, and ballot casting was light in the first hours after polling stations opened.

Overnight, two people – a police officer and a civilian – were killed in separate incidents in pre-election violence, authorities said.

Scores have died in Burundi since Nkurunziza said he will run for a third term, which would extend his decade in office by five more years.

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Critics say a third term is prohibited by a peace accord that ended the 1993-2003 civil war.

Protesters determined to prevent his candidacy have taken to the streets in the capital and have been met with deadly force by police.

More than 170,000 people have fled to neighboring nations, according to the United Nations, amid fears Burundi will return to a conflict similar to the civil war that left 300,000 people dead.

The turmoil also helped spawn an attempted coup in May while the President was out of the country.

The small, lush nation in central Africa has a population of almost 10.4 million.

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CNN’s Faith Karimi contributed to this report