BUJUMBURA, Burundi — Burundi's second vice president said he fled the country fearing for his life after opposing the president's controversial bid for a third term that has sparked off violent protests in the capital in recent weeks.
Gervais Rufyikiri, who went to Belgium last week, said in an interview on Radio France International aired Thursday that he has not officially resigned. He is the most senior government official to publicly oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza's efforts to extend his stay in power. Rufyikiri has now joined dozens of opposition and civil society activists, government officials and journalists who have gone into exile after opposing the president's candidacy for another term in office.
In a Twitter posting, the presidential adviser for information and media Willy Nyamitwe confirmed Rufyikiri had fled.
"Goodbye and good riddance Rufyikiri is the refrain of the song of my heart," Nyamitwe said.
At least 77 people have died in street protests against Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in the July 15 presidential elections, according to rights activists.
Critics say Nkurunziza's push for another term violates the two-term limit for presidents set by the constitution. Nkurunziza maintains that he deserves a third term in office because he was elected by parliament and not by popular vote for his first term.
The street protests that started after April 26th announcement of Nkurunziza's candidacy triggered an attempted coup in mid-May that was quickly put down.