The 4th round of talks is supposed to be the last. According to the facilitation office, an agreement signed in the presence of the Heads of State of the EAC would conclude it. An ambitious project.
The facilitation office has given a period of two weeks to settle definitively the crisis that Burundi has been through since 2015. Participants are already on the spot. The official opening was made on Tuesday.
There were a few hiccups from day one. The facilitator in the Burundian crisis proposed the formation of two groups. The first was composed of parties, political actors and former Heads of State. The other group was composed of the civil society, religious denominations, women and youth. The diametrically opposed positions of the protagonists were not counted on.
Already on Wednesday, the groups were broken into five others: a group of pro-government political parties, that of the actors and political parties of the opposition. On the other side was formed a group of the civil society composed of PARCEM and OLUCOM. The group of former Heads of State was also identified. Those who could not find themselves in one of the groups made the last group. Each of these groups will have a president and a rapporteur. Real discussions would follow shortly.
An elaborate agenda
On Monday, the Facilitation office announced the items that would be discussed during this session. It banks on this meeting to end the Burundian crisis. The proof: It has planned that at the end of this 4th round, participants will reach an agreement signed in the presence of the Heads of State of the East African community.
To get there, 8 points will be subject of discussion. They include debating the Arusha Agreement, ending impunity and strengthening democracy. One point that does not pass on the government side is the establishment of a national unity government. According to Bujumbura and its allies, no question of power sharing: "Power can only be accessed through elections," they say.
This session is taking place without the participation of big political names from the opposition platform in exile-CNARED as well as those of the civil society grouped into the anti-third term movement. For the opposition coalition in exile, the facilitation office should postpone this session whose inclusiveness is undermined. It also denounces what it describes as a trap to comfort President Nkurunziza in his attempt to remain on power forever. CNARED also speaks of an absent government in this round.
In this regard, Bujumbura indicates that a delegation is indeed present. This is reflected by the presence of the Ambassador and the Head of the Arusha Liaison Office at the EAC. "A delegation that can grow bigger over time," we learn from Bujumbura government.
A meeting held behind closed doors
This round is placed under the sign of discretion. While previous sessions were held in downtown Arusha, this time, the facilitation opted for a quiet corner, more than 30 km from the city, a hotel far from residential houses.
The facilitation has denied journalists access to the meeting place. A member of this office indicated that the facilitation wants to make sure a debate takes place between the protagonists and not with the public to ensure the best possible result.
>>Reactions: Over the national unity government
Léonce Ngendakumana: "A necessity"
"The establishment of a transitional government or national unity government is a necessity," said the vice president of Sahwanya FRODEBU party. According to him, the essential thing today is to rule on the objectives of this government namely the fight against crimes, arbitrary imprisonment etc ... for a good preparation of the elections of which Burundi and the region will be proud.
Evariste Ngayimpenda: "A government in which Burundians have confidence"
For this political actor of the non-institutional UPRONA party, the conclusions of the Arusha talks must be carried out by a government in which Burundians have confidence. According to Evariste Ngayimpenda, it will be necessary to rule on the implementation of these resolutions and ask the question whether or not all the parties have confidence in the government in place.
Jacques Bigirimana: "The population has decided"
The president of FNL party says the government of national unity should not be a subject of discussion. According to Jacques Bigirimana, the population has already made a decision by setting up institutions resulting from polls. "That's why I cannot talk about it."
Jean de Dieu Mutabazi: "There are no negotiations in Arusha"
The president of RADEBU party warns: "People should not make a mistake. No negotiations are taking place in Arusha as was the case during the Arusha negotiations in the 2000s, which led to the sharing of power". Jean de Dieu Mutabazi says it is rather a dialogue like the one that was organized in Burundi. He mentions here the example of the dialogue led by the National Commission for the Inter Burundian Dialogue-CNDI.
Analysis/Mkapa plays his last card
At the risk of being doom and gloom, it must be said that this session didn't start well. The first sign was the absence of a large part of the opponents of Bujumbura government. The internal opposition is present. A significant player, indeed.
However, ignoring the absence of the anti-third term movement that has called for protest may prove counterproductive. All mediators know that one makes peace with their opponents.
Of course, some would say that they were invited, but did not come and that they are the ones to be blamed and not the facilitation. All this may be true according to the reasons given. But the fact is that their chairs in Arusha are empty. So, can the process continue without them and one bet that peace can be made without them? It's apparently the choice made. Participants in Arusha seem to be confident.
They promise to debate and present arguments that could be argued by opponents and civil society in exile ...
Furthermore, CNARED is talking about the boycott by the government. Nevertheless, its chair is not empty. The government is present, via the ambassador to Tanzania, which is normal, and the assistant to the Minister of the Interior. It is also a message from Bujumbura to express the importance it attaches to the discussions that are being held in Arusha. Is this a good reason for the opposition and civil society to think of a masquerade?
There is finally this agreement that will be signed between the protagonists at the end of the session, according to the program of Mkapa. The chord symbolizes the end. The end of the dialogue, bringing the hope of an end of the crisis. This means that after two weeks in Arusha, Burundians will return with peace and security in their bags. The guarantees of better days. The end of hostilities. The mediation has embarked on an ambitious project. It decided to believe that Burundians are ready to end the crisis. Too good to be true? Apparently, Benjamin Mkapa has decided to play his last card.
Written by Agnes Ndirubusa and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana