Burundi's president will bid for a third term in June elections if selected by his party, his spokesman said Sunday, defying campaigners who say such a move would violate the Constitution and risk violence.
President Pierre Nkurunziza will stand if selected to run by his ruling CNDD-FDD party "in compliance with the constitution" said spokesman Willy Nyamitwe.
The announcement follows the launch of a campaign by over 300 civil society groups earlier this month calling on Nkurunziza not to run for a third term to "prevent further violence."
The group called for the president to "take a lesson" from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where deadly protests broke out in January over opposition fears that President Joseph Kabila was trying to extend his stay in power.
But Mr Nyamitwe warned that anyone seeking to spark protests would face the law.
"Whoever calls on people to take to the streets... will be considered a troublemaker and will be treated as such," he said.
RISK OF VIOLENCE
"The people of Burundi aspire to peace and it will not stand idly by in this case."
Rights groups have warned of growing fears of the risk of violence ahead of elections, with a string of attacks including a five-day battle last month between the army and rebels.
Burundi, a small landlocked nation in central Africa's Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war.
The political climate remains fractious ahead of local, parliamentary and presidential polls in May and June.
Opposition politicians and critics say the government is doing all it can to sideline political challengers ahead of the elections, including arrests, harassment and a clampdown on free speech.
Mr Nkurunziza has always been clear that he aspires to serve a third term.
Burundi's Constitution only allows a president to be elected twice — for a total of 10 years in power — but Mr Nkurunziza argues he has only been directly elected by the people once.
For his first term, beginning in 2005, he was selected by parliament.