Police forces in the Burundian capital Bujumbura have opened fire on a crowd of protesters, amid growing unrest over President Pierre Nkurunziza's re-election bid, according to eye witnesses.

Demonstrations in Bujumbura started with protests in several neighbourhoods, but entered a "second phase" on Wednesday (13 May) that included a march to the centre of the capital.

"Now, we are at the centre of town and we are showing ourselves to the police. The police is firing real bullets at us," protester Frédéric Banvuginyunvira told IBTimes UK over the phone.

The protesters were peaceful and no projectile was launched against the police all morning, the AFP reported, as authorities attempted to prevent small groups of protesters from gathering in the city center.

While Banvuginyunvira confirmed police had previously used other means to disperse protesters, he alleged they have now resorted to using real bullets.

"The police is also forbidding other protesters in Musaga (a neighbourhood south of the capital) from moving towards the centre by using live bullets. One man has been killed there," he said.

The march to the Presidency

Eyewitnesses also say police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse several hundred protesters near the president's office in the centre of Bujumbura.

Burundi map
Burundi mapibtimes.co.uk

This is the closest they have got to the presidency so far.

Banvuginyunvira confirmed the road to the airport is now blocked by protesters after they managed to reach the Place de l'Independence.

"The women, who started demonstrating this weekend, are continuing to be at the forefront of the protests. They were the first ones to penetrate the city centre today. The police is busy chasing them," he said.

In the Musaga district yesterday, some 300 women marched singing and chanting slogans against the president standing for a third term.

Some sang: "Nkurunziza a La Hague" (Nkurunziza to The Hague) - referring to the International Criminal Court.

At the time of publication, at least 22 people have been killed during the clashes, and hundreds have been injured.

Why are Burundians protesting?

- Violent protests have erupted at the end of April after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he will seek a third term in June's election.

- People accuse Nkurunziza of not respecting the Arusha Peace Agreement, which says the president can only stay in power for two terms.