Mkapa seeks special summit on Burundi talks boycott

Tuesday February 28 2017

Some of the Burundian delegates and members of

Some of the Burundian delegates and members of the diplomatic community during Burundi peace talks in Arusha, Tanzania in May 2016. PHOTO | SIMON P. OWAKA  

By MOSES HAVYARIMANA

Former Tanzania president and facilitator of the Intra-Burundi Dialogue Benjamin Mkapa wants East African Community leaders to convene an extraordinary summit on the boycott of talks by some parties.

As the second round of the talks ended in Arusha last week, Mr Mkapa said he would meet Burundi government officials over their grievances on the involvement of some opposition groups.

“I invited the political parties. All it means is that I postponed my meeting with the government. I thought it would make it easier for me to meet all of them here,” said Mr Mkapa during the consultations in Arusha.

The facilitator also said he would brief Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, the mediator in the talks, on the need for an extraordinary EAC Summit.

The Burundi government did not attend the dialogue, saying it would not talk to the opposition leaders, whom it accuses of plotting the failed May 2015 coup.

The second round of dialogue focused on resuming political life in the country, resumption of economic relations where sanctions have been imposed by the international community, repatriation of refugees and return of politicians in exile.

Three Burundi opposition members including former second vice president and ruling party member Alice Nzomukunda have returned to the country after more than four years in exile.

Ms Nzomukunda was Burundi’s second vice president during the first term of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government in 2005. After one year in office, she resigned, citing corruption and human-rights abuses by the government.

Ms Nzomukunda had been a member of the National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Accord (CNARED), an umbrella body of opposition leaders in exile who are against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term.

A misunderstanding between CNARED members early this month led to Ms Nzomukunda’s departure from the coalition.

“Even if they decide to help Nkurunziza, it is normal as we know every political struggle, things like this happen on a daily basis,” said the CNARED communication officer Jeremiah Minani.

Mr Minani ruled out the weakening of the coalition, saying, “even the Burundi government had so many defections from the army, the ruling party and top government officials.”

The return of the three opposition members from exile came after the Arusha dialogue led by the Burundi Ombudsman Edward Nduwimana. One of the aims of the talks was to facilitate the return of politicians in exile.

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