7 January 2016

Burundi: EAC Leaders Discuss Burundi Crisis, No New Peace Talks Date Set

Photo: http://www.dw.com
Protests in Burundi (file photo).

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, EAC, Regional and International Relations of Tanzania, Augustine Mahiga, has convened a consultative meeting in Arusha on Wednesday to deliberate on the way forward on the situation in Burundi. However, no new date for peace talks between the belligerents in the Burundi conflict was set.

Peace talks between Burundi's government and opposition groups were expected to resume on January 6, but have been postponed with no word on when they may resume. The talks opened in Uganda late last month.

Minister Mahiga invited at the meeting Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Angola, Crispus Kiyonga, Minister for Defense of Uganda and representative of President Yoweri Museveni, the facilitator of the dialogue; Ambassador Dr. Richard Sezibera, EAC secretary general; Kassimi Bamba, from the African Union Office in Burundi and the Great Lakes region.

A press release by the Eastern African Secretariat read: "The meeting expressed support for the facilitation efforts under President Yoweri Museveni and noted that the dialogue scheduled for 6th January 2016 did not take place due to ongoing consultations. The meeting committed to intensify consultations with the Burundi government and the opposition with a view to continue the Burundi political dialogue as soon as possible."

The consultative meeting was a follow-up on the re-launch of the dialogue in Kampala by President Museveni on December 28 in his capacity as facilitator of the Burundi dialogue, according to the press release. The meeting supported "steps taken in particular by the EAC, the AU and the UN and the resultant Communiqués and related pronouncements."

The meeting also expressed concern on the continued political crisis in Burundi and its potential to degenerate further with far reaching humanitarian implications; and in that regard reiterated the need for the parties to embrace political dialogue as the only feasible way to end the crisis in Burundi.

Meanwhile, the Burundian government has said it sees no close date for the resumption of the peace talks.

"No dialogue tomorrow neither on January 16 as many may think, because there has been no consensus on that date," Joseph Bangurambona, the permanent secretary in Burundi's foreign affairs ministry, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.

Explosions

On Monday, explosions hit the capital Bujumbura, injuring at least two people, police and civil society representatives said.

Two devices were thrown by people riding motorcycles, police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said.

One of them hit the compound of a Catholic convent, causing a woman who had taken shelter there to lose a leg. The other blast happened near a bank, wounding another woman in the arm.

Civil society representative Vital Nshimirimana reported a total of four explosions and blasts of gunfire, saying it was not known how many people had been injured or killed.

Opponents accuse Nkurunziza of responding to any criticism with murder and intimidation.

Rachel Nicholson, a researcher with Amnesty International, told The Guardian there was an atmosphere of fear and impunity in the neighborhoods where protests against the president has been at its most intense.

"Arbitrary arrests, disappearances and cordon-and-search operations accompanied by the killing of civilians have become routine at a time when many independent human rights organisations have been forced out of the country and people do not know who to turn to for redress," she said.

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