The Burundian government has been engaged in crackdown on opponents ahead of a controversial referendum planned for May this year.

The Burundian government and members of the ruling party have been engaged in a violent crackdown on opponents ahead of a controversial referendum planned for May this year, an international rights group has said.

The May 18 vote has been set to allow Burundians vote on whether or not to allow President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his tenure in office. The president who is already serving a controversial third-term would rule till 2034 if the vote succeeds.

According to a recently released report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), Bujumbura the capital city of Burundi has over the last few months engaged in killing, beating and intimidating perceived opponents as time nears for a referendum.

Ida Sawyer, HRW’s Central Africa director said, there is little doubt that the upcoming referendum will be accompanied by more abuses.

She added, Burundian officials and the Imbonerakure (ruling party youth) are carrying out violence with near-total impunity to allow Nkurunziza to entrench his hold on power.

 The main victims of the crackdown were members of the political opposition party, the National Liberation Forces (Forces nationales de libération, FNL).