No show by Burundi government in last Arusha talks on elections

Friday October 26 2018

A demonstration in Bujumbura

A demonstration in Bujumbura on February 18, 2017 against peace talks to resolve the political crisis in Burundi. PHOTO | AFP 

MOSES HAVYARIMANA
By MOSES HAVYARIMANA
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The East African Community-mediated Inter-Burundi dialogue began Thursday despite the absence of the key stakeholders, the government and the ruling party.

The facilitator, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, had been forced to rescheduled the commencement of the meetings from Wednesday October 24 to Thursday to allow the government's side time to attend.

The fifth session is expected to be the last, focussing on a roadmap for a free and fair 2020 general election.

But with the absence of the President Pierre Nkurunziza's administration and party, the talks appear to have already faltered.

“As long as the Burundi government is not attending the dialogue there is no reason for us to go there since whatever will be discussed in Arusha will have to be implemented in Burundi under the leadership of the government,” Ms Nancy Ninette Mutoni, the spokesperson of the ruling CNDD-FDD party told The EastAfrican.

Prior to the opening of the dialogue session, the facilitation team held a two-day consultative meeting with civil society organisations, religious leaders, women and youth.

A source close to Mr Mkapa told The EastAfrican that only 40 people are participating in the talks that end on October 29.

"We are not talking to them we only facilitate them to talk with each other,” the source added.

“The outcome of the 5th dialogue session only concerns those who participated in the session. For us, we raised our concerns which were never fulfilled by the facilitator,” said Prosper Ntahorwamiye, the Burundi government spokesman.

Bujumbura cites three major issues for not attending the talks. The government said the country was mourning two national heroes -- Prince Louis Rwagasore considered as an independence hero and President Melchior Ndadaye --, and that the facilitation team had failed to give it the list of participants and the order paper showing the issues to be discussed.

Since the regional mediated talks were launched in 2015, the Burundi government has insisted that it will not sit with people who it accuses of plotting the failed coup, a move that has stalled the talks for the past three years.

The mediation team is expected to present a report to the East African Community Heads of State Summit in November.

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This month, Burundi commemorates Prince Louis Rwagasore, a member of the royal family who served as prime minister before he was assassinated in October 13, 1961, a year before the country gained independence from Belgium. Mr Rwagasore is considered an independence hero.

The country also commemorates Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically elected president. He was assassinated three months after coming to office on October 21, 1993.

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