Five African Presidents designated by the African Union to find a lasting solution to the escalating political standoff and violence in Burundi are expected in the country between February 25 and 26.
According to media reports South Africa President Jacob Zuma is expected to lead his counterparts: Muhammad Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania; Macky Sall of Senegal; Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Hailemariam Desalgn of Ethiopia ‘to assist with addressing the political situation’.
Burundi descended into unrelenting violence last year, following the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza, that he would seek another term in office after the expiry of a ten-year tenure, enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
The visit of the AU presidential team that was tasked by the 25th Africa Union Summit of the Heads of States in early February will follow that of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in the strife-ravaged country today and is expected to hold talks with President Nkurunziza tomorrow. Nkurunziza has already rejected plans by the African Union to send peacekeepers to ease tensions in the Great Lakes nation, which diplomats fear is sliding toward another civil war.
More than 400 people have been killed since April when Nkurunziza said he would run for a third term, a move opponents dismissed as unconstitutional and sought to prevent by staging street protests.
And now both the United Nations and the African Union are under intense pressure to halt the violence that has engulfed Burundi a decade and a half after the country’s belligerent opponents signed a peace agreement in Arusha, Tanzania in 2000.
Meanwhile, three people were today killed in gun and grenade attacks in Burundi, just hours before the arrival of Ban Ki-moon, who is trying to end the bloodshed over President Nkurunziza’s disputed re-election.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks but the government says there are now three rebel outfits fomenting violence, including two made up of renegade soldiers.
The opposition also accuses government troops of arbitrary arrests, disappearances and extra-judicial killings.