More than 8,000 people on Saturday took part in a “Burundi Peace Run” through the capital Bujumbura, organisers said, in a bid to show the country has overcome more than two years of political crisis.
A heavy military and police contingent was on hand for the race with President Pierre Nkurunziza seeing the runners off at the starting line, according to some of those present.
Burundi was plunged into crisis in 2015 after Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office, violating a two-term constitutional limit and a 2006 peace deal ending more than a decade of civil war.
His move sparked protests which the UN says killed at least 500 although aid groups say the true toll could be as many as 2,500, while more than 420,000 Burundians were forced into exile.
Landry Nzokira, representing a regional youth organisation staging the event, said ministers as well as ambassadors from countries including France and the United States had taken part along with beauty pageant winners from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
“There are three races — over five, 10 and 20 kilometres (12 miles), but they’re not in any way competitive,” Nzokira said.
“The object is to allow the whole world to realise that peace reigns in Burundi, unlike the images broadcast by certain media.”
Nzokira stressed the race was totally non-political in nature and “we just want to promote a climate of security, peace in Burundi and tell the young people of the region they can come and invest here”.
Several residents of Bujumbura, however, told AFP very few people turned out to watch the race.
Friday evening saw two assailants throw two grenades injuring one person near the Louis Rwagasore stadium which was where Saturday’s race started.