The Burundi government said it would attend regional talks tomorrow aimed at ending a year-long cycle of violence that has claimed about 450 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Mediated by the East African Community (EAC), a regional body of which Burundi is a member, the talks have been repeatedly postponed since a first meeting in December that was chaired by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, where the government officials refused to share a table with what it considers insurgent groups.
Spokesman Willy Nyamitwe said that restriction still applied, but added: “We have received an invitation and we will go.”
Burundi’s political crisis broke out in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, a move opponents said violated the constitution.
After putting down an attempted coup in May led by generals opposed to his continued rule, he was re-elected in July, supported by a favourable court ruling.
Violence has steadily escalated since, with tit-for-tat killings between Nkurunziza’s security forces and rebels who took up arms against his government.
The next phase of talks is due to take place on Saturday in Arusha in neighbouring Tanzania, under the mediation of that country’s former president Benjamin Mkapa.
One opposition party, the CNDD, said it would attend, while others had yet to confirm their presence. The government recognises the CNDD as a legitimate interlocutor.
Meanwhile, a May 19 release by the EAC Mediator, former Tanzania President Mkapa, indicates that preparations for the dialogue are all in their different advanced stages of their completion, and invitations to the Government of Burundi, Former Presidents of Burundi, Political Parties, Civil Society Organization, Religious Groups and some selected important political actors have all gone. So far the Office of the Facilitator has received confirmations for participations from over 63 entities.
Delegates start arriving by today, ready for the opening ceremony that will be attended by the Executive Secretary of the ICGLR, Special Envoys from the USA, Belgium, UK, EU, AU and the UN; and some Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to Tanzania. The Dialogue is expected to conclude on Wednesday, 25th May, 2016 with the decision being reached on the agenda, venue and participation to the next dialogue.