Nkurunziza urges Burundi refugees in Tanzania to return home

Thursday July 20 2017

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (left)

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (left) with his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli during the former's visit to Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY 

By AFP
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Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza has called on his fellow nationals living as refugees in Tanzania to return home and rebuild their country.

The Burundian leader was in Tanzania Thursday for his first foreign trip in more than two years, seeking to revive political dialogue on the crisis in his country.

Nkurunziza arrived with a heavily armed escort in the northwest Tanzanian town of Ngara, about 15 kilometres (eight miles) from the Rwandan border.

He was welcomed by Tanzanian President John Magufuli at a football ground, where he was honoured with a 21-gun salute, live TV coverage on Tanzanian television showed. The two leaders also held bilateral talks.

Speaking in Kiswahili, Nkurunziza also welcomed Tanzanian businesspeople to Bujumbura.

Tunawaomba watanzania mje kufanya biashara Burundi (We ask Tanzanians to come and do business in Burundi),” he said.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza addressing Tanzanians in Ngara, Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY

The visit had been kept secret up to the last moment.

"Their discussion will cover, among other issues, the peace process" in Burundi, Macocha Tembele, an aide to former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa who has been working as a facilitator in the crisis, said in a tweet.

A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting had been initiated by Magufuli.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (left)

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (left) when he was received his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli in Ngara, Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY

"It was approved by the East African Community (EAC) in a bid to persuade Nkurunziza to take part in inter-Burundian dialogue without conditions," the source said, referring to the six-nation association gathering Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

"The international community is expecting a lot from this meeting, because Magufuli is one of the few people to have influence" over Nkurunziza, the source said.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (centre)

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (centre) with his delegation during the bilateral talks in Ngara, Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY

Tanzanian President John Magufuli (holding

Tanzanian President John Magufuli (holding microphone) with his delegation during the bilateral talks with their Burundian counterparts in Ngara, Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY

Burundi has been in the grip of a crisis since Nkurunziza's controversial decision in April 2015 to run for a third term in office.

He won elections that July that were boycotted by the opposition. It branded the vote a violation of the constitution.

Between 500 and 2,000 people have been killed in clashes, according to UN and NGO sources.

More than 400,000 people have fled and dozens of opposition activists have been forced into exile.

The last time Nkurunziza left the country was in May 2015 when he went to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania for an EAC summit, but rushed home to tackle an attempted coup.

-Additional reporting by The Citizen