Burundi talks to resume amid calls to UNSC to veto African Union plan

Saturday December 26 2015

African Union soldiers. Burundi sees the deployment of AU peacekeepers as a threat to the country’s sovereignty. PHOTO | FILE

The Burundi dialogue is set to resume on December 28 following calls by the international community to tame the escalating violence that has seen more than 300 killed since April.

Uganda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem told The EastAfrican on telephone that President Yoweri Museveni, the mediator in the talks, is available to lead the talks.

“On Monday, we will relaunch the dialogue at State House Entebbe and then later in January the talks will be conducted in Arusha,” a diplomatic source told The EastAfrican.

The Burundi government is trying to lobby for the opposition to be invited in their respective political parties rather than CNARED (Council for the Observance of the Constitution, Human Rights and the Arusha Peace Accord) a coalition of the opposition parties.

“CNARED is lobbying to be invited and the government is pushing for non-recognition of the party as it is not legally recognised in Burundi,” said the diplomat on condition of anonymity.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday sent his advisor Jamal Benomar to Kigali to meet President Paul Kagame in efforts to find a lasting solution to the Burundi crisis.


READ: UN chief sends envoy to Burundi after 'chilling' violence

The Burundian government had accused Rwanda of sheltering rebels and militarily training Burundian refugees, which has soured the two countries’ relations.

Meanwhile, Bujumbura is counting on the UN Security Council to overturn a decision by the African Union to send 5,000 peacekeepers to the country after its parliament voted against the deployment.

READ: AU set to send 5,000 troops to stop Burundi bloodshed

The AU Peace and Security Council last week passed a resolution for deployment of MAPROBU (African Prevention and Protection Mission in Burundi), but Burundi MPs voted against it early this week.

“The president takes advice from parliament and we are holding diplomatic discussions with the African Union and the United Nations. This was a rushed decision that we hope the AU will reconsider. If they don’t, the United Nation Security Council will overturn that decision,” said Jean Claude Karerwa, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s spokesman.

READ: Burundi MPs reject African Union troops

Veto power

Russia, which holds a veto vote at the UN Security Council, has openly criticised calls for foreign interventions in Burundi, while China, another member with veto power, could oppose the deployment given its continued investments in Bujumbura. The other three members with veto power are the UK, US and France, which have all been critical of the instability in Burundi. 

“A position by parliament represents the position of the people and the government,” said Mr Karerwa.

On Monday, Burundi’s parliament rejected the AU’s decision to deploy peacekeepers, warning that it would violate the country’s sovereignty and independence. MPs also denounced what it called propaganda by some “self-proclaimed Burundian leaders” that the country was heading towards genocide.

Contributions to the proposed AU force have also come under sharp focus after President Paul Kagame said Rwanda would not commit troops, adding, “Burundians have a responsibility to resolve their own problems.”

Burundi had said it would consider deployment of peacekeepers as an invasion of the country if it contained Rwandan soldiers.

READ: No Rwandan troops for AU mission to Burundi, Kagame confirms

The AU had said the force would come in to protect civilians and quell what was steadily turning into a civil war.

Although Rwandan President Paul Kagame has blamed Burundi’s leaders for the escalating violence, he has dismissed the suggestion of external interference.

“We have no extra capacity to pass around to people who don’t even want it,” President Kagame said, adding, “It is not Rwanda’s duty to address these kinds of problems wherever they happen, even if it is with our immediate neighbour.”

However, he said that Rwanda would, out of concern rather than responsibility, contribute in any way required.

Burundi has claimed that Rwanda is recruiting refugees into rebel forces opposed to President Nkurunziza’s rule, allegations that President Kagame has dismissed as an attempt to “suck Rwanda into their mess.”

“The main idea is to see how Burundi can be assisted to find a political solution. It is a political problem and not a military one… We are appealing to Burundians to sort this problem out,” said President Kagame.

Rwanda currently hosts about Burundian 72,000 refugees.