Burundi arrests senior opposition politician over 'armed gangs' link

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - The head of one of Burundi’s opposition parties has been arrested for collaborating with “armed gangs”, police said on Thursday, joining a list of activists and political figures detained since the start of a political crisis.

Gervais Niyongabo, chairman of FEDES-SANGIRA, was detained in the southern Makamba region on Wednesday, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye wrote on his Twitter account.

Niyongabo had been one of the few opposition leaders still working inside the central African nation - many others have fled to neighboring states and Europe.

Burundi has been mired in political crisis and sporadic violence for more than a year, triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in office, which he secured in a disputed election in July 2015.

Opponents accuse the president of violating the constitution and a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2005. The government accuses opponents of fomenting unrest, and accuses them of backing rebel groups, which officials call “armed gangs”.

FEDES-SANGIRA party was among the opposition groups to boycott the elections last year.

At least 450 people have been killed in violence that first erupted during protests against Nkurunziza’s re-election bid in April 2015.

Reporting by Clement Manirabarusha; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens