Human Rights Watch has claimed that more than 15 people have been killed during Thursday’s referendum which is likely to extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s stay in power.
The right group in a statement said security forces and some allied militia groups intimidated some voters who were opposed to the referendum.
It said some opponents of the referendum were “killed, raped, abducted, beaten, and intimidated,” with the group documenting at least 15 killings, six rapes and eight abductions.
HRW’s central Africa director, Ida Sawyer said “Burundi’s referendum took place amid widespread abuse, fear and pressure, a climate that is clearly not conducive to free choice”.
The small and impoverished Central Africa nation has been unstable since 2015, when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term in office that his opponents said was unconstitutional.
The referendum was to decide whether to amend the constitution to extend presidential terms to seven years from five. Results are expected to start coming in on Friday.
The proposed changes would limit the president to two consecutive terms but would not take into account previous terms, potentially extending Nkurunziza’s rule to 2034.
The campaign for the referendum has been marred by violence and intimidation. Last week more than 26 villagers in Burundi’s north-west were murdered by armed men who stormed homes with knives and setting them on fire.
President Pierre Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005 but his desire to extend his rule has sparked series of violence.