Bujumbura: Thousands of Burundians took part in a government-backed rally "for peace" Saturday, where speakers took aim at the opposition, civil groups and the media, accusing them of leading the country towards war.
The demonstration in the capital Bujumbura was mirrored at rallies organised by the authorities in other towns, underlining the growing tension in Burundi ahead of a presidential election in June.
"We are here to denounce all those who seek to bring us to war, all those who want to organise popular uprisings," Bujumbura mayor Saidi Juma told the crowd, reading a text prepared by the government.
Last month, vast crowds took part in one of the largest demonstrations in recent years after the release of a popular journalist and government critic from jail.
Burundi, a small landlocked nation in central Africa`s Great Lakes region, emerged in 2006 from a 13-year civil war. The political climate remains fractious ahead of local, parliamentary and presidential polls.
Rights groups have warned of growing fears of the risk of violence ahead of elections, with a string of attacks including a five-day battle last month between the army and rebels.
President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, is expected to run for a third term in office despite opponents` claims that a new mandate would violate Burundi`s constitution.