JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Burundi's beleaguered president is trying a novel approach to financing controversial elections: crowdfunding via Facebook.
President Pierre Nkurunziza is determined to seek an unconstitutional third term, despite weeks of violent street protests and an attempted coup by a top army general. Some 30 people have been killed in the political unrest, and more than 100,000 have fled the country.
Major donors including the European Union and former colonial power Belgium are withholding some $4.5 million in funding for the June 26 presidential polls, unless "conditions for a free, peaceful and credible election are secured," the EU said.
The Burundian presidency decided it wasn't keen on those terms, and on Tuesday posted a notice on its official Facebook page asking citizens donate to an account named "ELECTIONS 2015," at the Bank of the Republic of Burundi.
The Facebook post trumpets the goal of supporting "a democratic culture based on the universal principle of the choice of the people."
"The government invites patriotic citizens convinced by this noble principle to make a voluntary contribution to push forward the efforts already agreed to by other friends of Burundi," the French-language plea for funding says.
Under Burundi's constitution, as well as a peace accord that ended the country's devastating civil war, the president may only serve two terms. Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, argues that he is eligible for a third because he wasn't elected by popular vote for his first term in office.
Given these circumstances, imagine the chutzpah required to ask your countrymen for money. But this is, after all, the same president pictured playing soccer last week as the protests raged.