Hundreds of people in Burundi protested in the capital Sunday after the country’s ruling party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term.
There were clashes between protesters and armed police in Bujumbura, the nation’s capital. Police fired tear gas to break up crowds and also blocked access to some parts of the city.
Watchdog groups and observers had warned of possible unrest if Nkurunziza decided to again. Thousands of Burundians have already fled the country ahead of presidential elections on June 26.
Burundi’s constitution stipulates that a president can only serve for two terms, but Nkurunziza’s party says he is eligible for another term as popularly elected president because for his first term he was elected by lawmakers.
Critics say this is not a proper interpretation of the law and that he should not get a third term.
The U.S. government has criticized the ruling party’s decision.
“With this decision, Burundi is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy by establishing a tradition of peaceful democratic transition,” the State Department said in a statement.
More than 10,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring Rwanda citing fears of election violence. Many of those in Rwanda say they left because of growing pressure to support Nkurunziza’s party, which is known by its initials CNDD-FDD. Others alleged violence by the ruling party’s youth wing, known as Imbonerakure, according to the U.N. refugee agency.Hundreds in Burundi are protesting against the ruling party’s decision to nominate the president to run for a third term.