Thursday, February 25, 2016

Burundi President Agrees to Hold Talks
February 25, 2016

Bujumbura – Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has agreed to hold talks to end a 10-month-old crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday, but the main opposition group dismissed the plan as a “false opening”.

After meeting Nkurunziza as well as government and some opposition politicians, Ban said that all sides had agreed to “inclusive dialogue” and that the president “confirmed, that he would engage in political dialogue.”

But hours later the influential CNARED umbrella opposition group – whose leaders are in exile – dismissed the talk of talks, angered by Nkurunziza’s apparent attempt to choose who should participate.

“This dialogue concerns all Burundians, except those engaged in acts of destabilisation,” Nkurunziza said after Ban’s visit, prompting CNARED to accuse the president of being disingenuous.

“It’s a false opening because, in effect, the president told the UN Secretary General that he accepts inclusive dialogue and then immediately afterwards wants to choose his interlocutors, accusing some of disrupting security,” CNARED chair Leonard Nyangoma said.

“He says one thing and then its opposite,” Nyangoma said. “It’s clear Nkurunziza doesn’t want real negotiations to bring peace to Burundi.”

Nyangoma added that the International Criminal Court should open an investigation into the “numerous crimes against humanity committed by Nkurunziza’s forces. While in Burundi the UN chief had called on the country’s political leaders “to summon the courage and the confidence that will make a credible political process possible,” Ban said.

Ban’s visit coincided with an uptick in grenade attacks with at least four killed just ahead of his arrival and at least a dozen injured in a series of overnight grenade attacks in several city neighbourhoods.

“Last night, ten grenades exploded in several districts of Bujumbura, leaving a dozen people wounded,” a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.

The officer said two soldiers were among the injured as well as civilians after the series of explosions in outlying parts of the capital.

Burundi’s crisis was triggered by Nkurunziza’s controversial decision in April last year to run for a third term which he went on to win in a July election.

Over 400 people have been killed, more than 240,000 have left the country and violent attacks have become a daily routine in the months since, raising fears of a return to the civil war fought between 1993-2006.

Nkurunziza has faced down an African Union threat to send peacekeepers to his country.

Ban’s visit – his first since the start of the crisis – was intended to revive stalled efforts to end the dispute and comes after the Burundi government appeared to soften its position towards opponents by agreeing to receive a delegation of African heads of state, expected later this week.

It also cancelled international arrest warrants against some exiled opposition leaders and on Tuesday said 2,000 prisoners would be released in what Ban described as a “goodwill gesture”.

Nkurunziza said he had appealed to Ban to help end Rwandan support for Burundian rebels alleged by Burundian authorities and UN investigators.

“We also discussed regional problems and we explained how Rwanda is trying to destabilise us,” Nkurunziza said. “We told [Ban] that we had evidence and we asked for UN intervention to push for Rwanda to give it up, so that Burundians and Rwandans can live in harmony as in the past.”


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