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Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
A protestor throws fuel onto a shop kiosk dragged into the road to form a barricade in the Cibitoke neighbourhood of Bujumbura, Burundi, on May 7, 2015.Phil Moore—AFP/Getty Images
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
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Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
Burundi protests president Nkurunziza elections
A protestor throws fuel onto a shop kiosk dragged into the road to form a barricade in the Cibitoke neighbourhood of Buj
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Phil Moore—AFP/Getty Images
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Photos Capture 3 Months of Political Unrest in Burundi

Jul 30, 2015

On April 25, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in office—despite a constitution that limits the time spent in office for any one person to two terms of five years each. The announcement sparked violent protests among opposition supporters in the country, in the Great Lakes area of Africa. Freelance photographer Phil Moore, who also contributes to Agence France-Presse, arrived a few days later, on May 1, and what he saw there underscores the gravity of the situation.

In the first weeks of May, the protests remained largely localized in strongholds of the opposition outside of the country’s capital, Bujumbura. “The protesters were in the streets almost every day,” says Moore, “and the police were trying to prevent them from bringing the protests to the city center.”

In some cases, civilians were targeted when they were suspected of belonging to the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth militia, as Moore’s colleague, Jerome Delay of Associated Press witnessed on May 7.

“After a while, the army was forced to come in to act as a buffer to defuse the tension,” says Moore.

The turning point came a few days later when former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare seized control of the capital’s airport and media assets in an apparent coup. For 36 hours, chaos engulfed the country as forces loyal to President Nkurunziza wrestled with Niyombare’s supporters. In the end, the coup failed, forcing Niyombare to flee the country.

Man Survives Mob Attack in Burundi as Protests Intensify

Jean Claude Niyonzima, a suspected member of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth militia, is restrained as a mob gathers around his house, as protests continue against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office in the Cibitoke district of Bujumbura, Burundi on May 7, 2015.
Jean Claude Niyonzima, a suspected member of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth militia, is restrained as a mob gathers around his house, as protests continue against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office in the Cibitoke district of Bujumbura, Burundi on May 7, 2015.Jerome Delay—AP
Jean Claude Niyonzima, a suspected member of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth militia, is restrained as a mob gathers around his house, as protests continue against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office in the Cibitoke district of Bujumbura, Burundi on May 7, 2015.
Jean Claude Niyonzima pleads for his life as he is surrounded at his house.
Niyonzima flees from his house while surrounded by a mob.
Niyonzima flees from his house into a sewer under a hail of stones thrown by a mob.
Niyonzima falls in the sewer as he flees from his house under a hail of stones thrown by a mob.
Demonstrators prepare to flush out Niyonzima who escaped a lynching by escaping into a sewer.
Soldiers disperse a crowd by firing into the air after demonstrators cornered Niyonzima in a sewer.
Niyonzima pleads with soldiers to protect him from a mob of demonstrators after he emerged from hiding in a sewer.
Niyonzima sits under soldiers' protection from a mob of demonstrators after he came out of hiding in a sewer.
Jean Claude Niyonzima, a suspected member of the ruling party's Imbonerakure youth militia, is restrained as a mob gathe
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Jerome Delay—AP
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“After that, the government used this attempt to portray protesters as dissidents and rebels,” says Moore. “Any sort of protests were violently put down, and that’s when the situation took an even more sinister turn as, in June, there was a series of grenade attacks throughout the capital before the parliamentary elections.”

Seen as a prelude and litmus test for last week’s presidential elections, those elections were conducted in an environment that was “not conducive for free, credible and inclusive elections,” according to the United Nations electoral observer mission. Last week, the U.N. renewed its condemnation — this time for the presidential elections, in which Nkurunziza won a third term with 69% of the vote. “Now, everybody is waiting to see what happens next,” says Moore.

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is now mediating Burundi's crisis, leading negotiations between the government and opposition groups “to reach an agreement on issues affecting the political situation in Burundi and report back as soon as possible,” according to the Associated Press.

For Moore, this is only the start of his documentation of the country’s politics. In the future, he plans to take a deeper look at Burundi’s economic and social situation. “Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world," he says. "I’ve been able to look at these other issues that underpin the problems the country is going through right now.”

And it's not just Burundi: “It’s quite an important story not just because of what happening in Burundi, but also for what it means for the region," Moore adds. "This talk of new presidential mandate is relevant in Congo as well as in Rwanda.”

Last week, the Rwandan government launched a national consultation as its president, Paul Kagame, sought to change the country’s constitution to scrap term limits and grant him a potential third term in office.

Phil Moore is a freelance photographer and contributor to Agence France-Presse based in Kenya and the U.K.

Mikko Takkunen is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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