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    Soldiers guard a polling station in the Musaga neighborhood of Bujumbura on the day of Presidential elections in Burundi on July 21, 2015

    Burundi Environment Minister Shot Dead, Ending Months of Peace in the Nation

    © AFP 2017/ CARL DE SOUZA
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    The Water, Environment and Planning Minister of Burundi has been shot dead by an unknown assailant, becoming the nation’s first serving government official to be killed as a result of the political crisis that began in 2015.

    Emmanuel Niyonkuru, water, environment and planning minister of the small Central African nation, was shot dead by an unknown armed assailant, according to a tweet by police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye. This news ends four months of relative calm in the crisis-torn nation, bordered by the restive Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

    Niyonkuru, 54, has become the first serving government official to be killed in the violent political crisis that gripped Burundi Pierre Nkurunziza, the country's president of almost a decade, ran for a third presidential term, a step that local opposition called "unconstitutional" and boycotted.

    Nkurunziza's run for a third term has been fiercely criticized by the United Nations, the United States, France, South Africa, Belgium and various other governments, who say his election violates the nation's constitution as well as a deal that ended a civil war back in 2005. Burundi officials, on the other hand, point to a court decision that ruled Nkurunziza could indeed run again.

    Nkurunziza won the 2015 election with nearly 70% support, with the opposition's boycott boosting his vote count even higher.

    The United States and other countries have imposed sanctions on Burundi, cutting it off from Western financial aid and forcing it to seek cooperation with Russia and other countries. In June the nation's central bank signed a deal with Russia's Gazprombank to facilitate foreign investment — a move toward a path already taken by other African nations with whom the West is reluctant to cooperate.

    The political crisis that began in 2015 has taken the lives of almost 500 people, including some high-ranking army officials. However, no acting government official has been killed before. Some 300,000 people have fled the country.

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    Tags:
    political crisis, assassination, United Nations, Pierre Nkurunziza, Emmanuel Niyonkuru, Africa, Burundi
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