BUJUMBURA, Burundi — Burundi’s defense minister said Saturday the army will remain neutral amid the protests stemming from the president’s controversial bid for a third term.

Maj. Gen. Pontien Gaciyubwenge told a news conference that “all political actors” in Burundi should not go down the path of violence, according to local media. In street protests since Sunday, the military has been acting as a buffer between protesters and local police, who are accused of sometimes using live ammunition against the protesters. Tear gas has also been used to break up crowds.

Burundi’s popular Radio Isanganiro quoted Gaciyubwenge as saying the military should behave in ways that “conform to the spirit” of the constitution as well as the Arusha Agreements that ended a civil war between Hutu rebels and a Tutsi-dominated army in 2003. More than 250,000 people died in the war.

Although the current conflict is political, some observers are concerned about the risk of igniting ethnic tensions.