Burundians have woken up to queue at polling centres to cast their ballots to determine whether their constitution could be revised.
Experts argue that this constitutional referendum could extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.
Burundians are voting Yes or No on whether to extend presidential terms from five years to a seven-year mandate.
However, reports on ground indicate there is voter intimidation and threats by elements from security.
“Imbonerakure making a lot of noise with whistles forcing people to *go to vote in Nkurunziza referendum. They are intimidating residents and knocking on their doors. Security forces deployed armed vehicles.,” a tweet claimed.
There is currently a two-term limit in place for presidents. The changes could also allow Mr Nkurunziza to contest the 2020 elections, and potentially enjoy another two terms, as under a new constitution, he would start from scratch.
Other changes include a new post for a prime minister, the scrapping of the second vice-president post, and a clause that could see ethnic quotas – of 60% for Hutus and 40% for Tutsis – in the Senate and National Assembly, evaluated and potentially ended in five-years’ time.
The current constitution, adopted in 2005, grew from the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, which helped end Burundi’s civil war by establishing one of Africa’s most inclusive political arrangements.
The country slid into political violence in 2015 when President Nkurunziza run for a controversial third term but critics at the time called his move unconstitutional. The resulting political crisis led to hundreds of deaths, and more than 400,000 people fled the country, according to the UN.