Burundi’s political parties are set to launch campaigns on Monday for next month’s general elections to replace President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005.
Seven candidates, including two independents, are in the race for the top job.
The ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate, Major General Evariste Ndayishimiye, and Agathon Rwasa of the main opposition party, the National Congress for Liberty (CNL), are considered the front runners.
The campaigns start amid the coronavirus pandemic and fears by the opposition of repression.
Mjr Ndayishimiye is expected to start his campaign in the new political capital, Gitega, while Mr Rwasa will be in Ngozi province in the north.
Despite not vying for the elections, President Nkurunziza may retain considerable power after the poll because under a controversial new law he is due to be given the title of “supreme leader”.
The rights monitoring group, Human Rights Watch, has released a report that warned about a crackdown on opposition politicians and independent media.
Last week, the CNL said more than 10 of its members were killed in recent months and 200 have been jailed.
The oarty has accused security forces and members of the ruling party’s youth wing, Imbonerakure, for the attacks against opposition members. But the government has strongly refuted the claims.
Burundi has so far recorded 14 cases of Covid-19, four recoveries and one death.