Arusha — Embattled Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza may be stopped from assuming the chair of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit if a petition filed by human rights groups in Africa is given a nod by relevant regional bodies during its hearing which kicks off here today.
The Pan African Lawyers Union (Palu) and other petitioners from within and outside the region want the Burundi leader stopped from taking over the rotating chairmanship of EAC until he resolves the political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in his country.
The petition was submitted to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) and is set for hearing at the EAC headquarters beginning this morning at a time the mediation efforts among the warring parties in Burundi are yet to bear fruit and with the humanitarian crisis there worsening.
President Nkurunziza, whose country is one of the EAC partner state, is expected to assume the Chair of the regional Heads of State during the coming Summit, whose date and venue is yet to be announced. He will take over from President John Magufuli.
According to the EAC Treaty, the tenure of office of the Chairperson of the Summit is one year and the office of the Chairperson shall be held in rotation among the partner states. Currently there are five the others being Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya.
Subject to the provisions of the Treaty, the Summit shall determine its own procedure, including that for convening its meetings for the rotation of the office of Chairperson, among the members of the Summit.
Tanzania assumed the Chairmanship in February last year during the Ordinary Heads of State Summit in Nairobi when retired President Jakaya Kikwete took over from Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. President Magufuli automatically took over after the stepping down of Dr Kikwete and it is now the turn for Burundi to chair the Summit of Heads of State, the principal organ of the EAC whose decisions are supreme.
But with the worsening political crisis and killings in the tiny state, there had been calls that Burundi was not in a position to assume the Chairmanship of the EAC Heads 'Club'. Burundi government officials have not repeatedly played down on this, saying their obligation to the bloc remain the same despite the turmoil.
A senior public relations officer with Eala, Mr Bobi Odiko, said yesterday pressure to stop the Burundi leader from taking over the mantle from Dr Magufuli was among several demands in the petition which was filed by Palu.