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PHOTO: POLITICAL PARTIES HOLD RALLIES IN BURUNDI AHEAD OF POLL.

Burundians will vote Wednesday in a tense general election, despite a largely-ignored outbreak of coronavirus which is set to be the first major challenge for the new president.

President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, shocked observers by deciding to step aside, five years after a controversial third-term run plunged his country into political and economic crisis.

While Ethiopia decided to delay its election this year due to the pandemic, Burundi has pushed forward with the vote at all costs, with heaving crowds of thousands attending political rallies, with only buckets of water and soap available as a nod to the virus.

Burundi has so far officially recorded only 42 cases and one death from the virus, but doctors and the opposition accuse the government of hiding the true extent of the outbreak.

The government has expelled the four top World Health Organisation officials steering the response to the epidemic, with no explanation. They left the country on Saturday.

Officials in Burundi have cited divine protection for the country’s ostensibly low infection rate and urged citizens to go about their daily lives without fear.

Burundi has not taken any measures to confine or limit the movement of the population, unlike most other countries in the region with the exception of Tanzania — where many fear the virus is also spreading out of control.

General Evariste Ndayishimiye, the presidential candidate for the ruling CNDD-FDD party said-

“Do not be afraid. God loves Burundi and if there are people who have tested positive, it is so that God may manifest his power in Burundi,” said

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