26 April 2017

East Africa: EAC Secretariat Remains Impartial On Burundi


The East African Community Secretariat has noted with concern an opinion article titled, Mfumukeko and EAC Summit have failed the test of impartiality on Burundi crisis, published in the April 22 -28, 2017 edition of The EastAfrican newspaper.

The writer, Mr Wachira Maina, imputes possible bias on the part of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State and the EAC Secretary-General, Mr Liberat Mfumukeko, in the ongoing Inter-Burundi Dialogue whose facilitator is former Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa.

To set the record straight, the EAC remains an impartial arbiter in the Inter-Burundi Dialogue. The Community is prepared to work with all stakeholders in a structured manner to ensure the success and lasting peace in Burundi and the East African region.

The EAC Secretary-General never dismissed the report of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Conflict Prevention, Mr Jamal Benomar, to the UN Security Council. Rather, he only stated that the EAC Secretariat did not participate in the preparation of the said report.

It is therefore not clear how the SG's clarification on the matter draws the EAC into Burundi's alleged quarrels with the UN as the writer claims.

The EAC Heads of State Summit, at their 17th Ordinary Meeting, affirmed that Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni was the mediator for the Inter-Burundi Dialogue. The Summit also appointed a team under Mr Mkapa, as the facilitator of the mediation.

Mr Maina is therefore right to say that the EAC is actively mediating the Burundi peace. However, he misses the point when he claims that the "EAC is also partnering with the African Union and the UN in a joint technical working group on the conflict".

The Secretariat wishes to make it clear that no 'joint technical working group' has formally been established so far between the EAC, AU and UN. However, the EAC, AU and UN are in consultations to set up a joint mechanism for the dialogue.

The EAC Secretary-General has not, at any time, spoken on behalf of the Burundi government as the writer claims. Mr Mfumukeko has since his appointment as EAC Secretary-General never commented on the relationship between the government and the opposition groups and on the security situation. It is therefore inaccurate for the writer to insinuate that the Secretary-General is receiving instructions from any partner state.

Prior to his appointment, Mr Mfumukeko was a high ranking bureaucrat in the government of Burundi. It is worth noting that all previous secretaries-general have served at the apex levels of their governments back home.

As to why Burundi was allowed to nominate a Secretary-General to the Community, the writer would do himself some justice by reading the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC in full. Article 66 provides that the

Secretary-General shall be appointed by the Summit upon nomination by the relevant head of state under the principle of rotation. The Secretary-General shall serve for a fixed term of five years.

The writer acknowledges that he was not clear what the Secretary-General's alleged criticism of Mr Benomar's report to the UN Security Council was all about. It would be in the best interests of the writer's audience if he had carried out proper background research on what the Secretary-General actually said.

The Burundi Dialogue is not a lost cause as the writer implies. No one dreamed it would be a walk in the park, given the country's chequered history. The EAC Secretariat has and will continue to provide moral and material support to the facilitator.

We trust that the Dialogue will result in a genuine and lasting for the people of Burundi.

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