LONDON — Burundi ’s environment minister was shot to death while en route home from a New Year’s celebration early Sunday morning, an act that could exacerbate the country’s nearly two-year-long political crisis.
Emmanuel Niyonkuru, 54, the minister for water, environment and planning, was shot to death around 12:45 a.m. while returning to his home in the Rohero section of Bujumbura, the capital, according to a statement by Pierre Nkurikiye, a spokesman for the national police. He said that a woman who was with him had been detained for questioning.
President Pierre Nkurunziza called the killing an “assassination” and said on Twitter : “Condolences to the family and to all Burundians. This crime will not go unpunished.”
Violent protests broke out after April 2015, when Mr. Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term, even though the constitution limits the president to two five-year terms. (The constitutional court ruled that his first term did not count, since he had been elected by members of Parliament and not directly by voters.) He went on to win a new term , in an election that most of his rivals boycotted and that American and European observers described as neither fair nor free.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the violence, which has displaced an estimated 300,000 people. The United Nations has warned of summary executions and other crimes that might amount to crimes against humanity — an assertion that Mr. Nkurunziza has rejected. In October, Burundi moved to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, the Hague-based tribunal responsible for investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity, the first country to do so.