3 March 2016

Burundi: Opposition Has High Hopes for New Tanzanian Facilitator in Burundi Mediation

Burundi's opposition has welcomed the announcement of a new facilitator in mediation efforts to end the country's crisis, sparked by the controversial third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Tanzania's former president Benjamin Mkapa was named as facilitator during an East African Community summit on Wednesday. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni remains the main mediator.

"I think it's a good thing for the peace process in Burundi because President Museveni is busy with home affairs," said Pancrace Cimpaye, spokesman, National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Agreement (Cnared).

Mkapa served as Tanzania's president from 1995 to 2005 and was previously involved in mediation efforts that helped lead to the deal which ended Burundi's civil war.

"Former president Mkapa followed the peace process, especially the peace agreement signed in Arusha in 2000," Cimpaye told RFI by telephone. "Cnared - we're very happy and we warmly welcome President Mkapa to the Burundi peace process."

Cimpaye has not yet been in touch with the new facilitator.

A statement from the Arusha summit said that Mkapa had been appointed to "facilitate mediation" and would be leading a team to assist inter-Burundi dialogue.

One of the key sticking points in the Ugandan-led mediation has been the opposition groups included in the dialogue.

The government has previously rejected the involvement of Cnared, which represents a number of opposition parties, and does not want to sit down with groups implicated in the overthrow of the government.

"If Cnared is not invited, there won't be peace in Burundi, because you can't talk about talks when one party is not involved," said Cimpaye.

"As co-mediator he [Mkapa] must come to see the opposition side as well as the government ... it will be between the two parties," he added.

Burundi had been expected to assume the rotating chairmanship of the EAC regional bloc during the Arusha summit. However, east African heads of state agreed that Tanzania's President John Magufuli would continue for another year. Nkurunziza was not present in Arusha.

Some 400 people have been killed in Burundi and more 247,000 have fled the country since April.

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