Five African heads of state held a long meeting Friday (Feb 26) with Burundi’s president in Bujumbura, a day after they conferred with the opposition on launching a dialogue to end the country’s entrenched political crisis.
BUJUMBURA: Five African heads of state held a long meeting Friday (Feb 26) with Burundi’s president in Bujumbura, a day after they conferred with the opposition on launching a dialogue to end the country’s entrenched political crisis.
The outcome of the talks will be announced on Saturday by the African Union (AU), which organised the trip, said South African President Jacob Zuma, who headed the delegation.
He gave no further details.
A spokesman for Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza said the results were “satisfactory” while the reaction from opposition leaders was mixed.
The crisis was triggered by Nkurunziza’s controversial decision last April to run for a third term, which he won in an election in July.
Over 400 people have been killed while more than 240,000 have left the country and violent attacks have become routine, raising fears of a return to the 1993-2006 civil war in which around 300,000 people died.
The talks came on the heels of a trip by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who secured a promise of “inclusive dialogue” from President Pierre Nkurunziza to help end the turmoil.
The African Union (AU) agreed to send the delegation — which also comprised leaders of Ethiopia, Gabon, Mauritania and Senegal — during its January summit when Burundi successfully faced down a plan to deploy 5,000 peacekeepers to the country.
“It was a good meeting between brothers,” Nkurunziza’s head of communications, Willy Nyamitwe, told AFP after Friday’s talks, which lasted more than four hours. “The results are satisfactory.”
The five leaders then headed to the airport to return home.
On Thursday the African leaders met with opposition representatives and on Friday with an ex-president, Domitien Ndayizeye, before joining talks with Nkurunziza later in the day.
‘VERY DEEP CRISIS’
One opposition leader, Charles Nditije of the UPRONA party, cast doubt on the AU delegation’s intent.
“We are disappointed because, listening to President Zuma, we felt that these heads of state came to consolidate Nkurunziza in his third term,” he said.
Zuma referred to “respecting the decisions of the constitutional council,” Burundi’s paramount legal panel, which had approved the third term, Nditije said.
“He also talked about the need for an inclusive dialogue outside the country, but without proposing to apply pressure on this government,” Nditije said.
Leonce Ngendakumana of the FRODEBU party was more positive.
“The key for me is that they have realised that Burundi’s crisis is very deep and they support the principle of a dialogue under international mediation and outside the country,” Ngendakumana said, adding that he had hardly expected the heads of state to come to Burundi to “force out” Nkurunziza.
Many other influential opposition leaders remain in exile.
Previous talks, mediated by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, have failed, with the Burundian government refusing to sit with some opponents who it accuses of involvement in a failed coup last May and of months of violence including grenade and rocket attacks.
The issue of who might be involved in talks remains a sticking point even as the violence continues.
In the latest incidents at least four grenades were thrown overnight Thursday with another explosion in a Bujumbura market on Friday injuring at least six people.