COMPROMISED? Burundi facilitator Benjamin Mkapa. Burundi CSOs want him of their country's peace talks

Two Burundian networks of civil society organizations have issued a joint statement strongly criticizing former Tanzanian President and facilitator in the Burundian conflict Benjamin Mkapa for meeting the radical opposition and ‘coup plotters’ in Belgium, asking him to resign.

The two networks are the Integral Platform for the Civil Society and the Coalition of Associations of People Infected or Affected by HIV/AIDS (CAPES+).

“It is with high disappointment and worries that we condemn the procedure of facilitator Benjamin Mkapa for meeting, on June 10-11, in Brussels, coup plotters and persons involved in the Burundian crisis,” said Venant Hamza Burikukiye, chairman of the CAPES+, in the joint statement.

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Burikukiye said that the meeting was ‘a sign of provocation against the Burundian government and the majority of Burundian citizens’.

According to him, it is also a violation of Burundian laws and Resolutions 2248 and 2279 of the United Nations Security Council stipulating that only ‘peaceful’ stakeholders will participate in the inter-Burundian dialogue.

“We urge the Burundian government to refuse facilitator Benjamin Mkapa and to refuse to go to Arusha talks on invitation of Mkapa.

“We also call on heads of state of the East African Community (EAC) to replace Mkapa as he has failed to carry out his assignment,” said Burikukiye.

The statement comes at a time when talks to settle the year-long crisis in Burundi is due later this month in Arusha, Tanzania.

Last Friday, the Burundian government reiterated its refusal to negotiate with what it calls ‘non-peaceful’ actors.

Stakeholders in the inter-Burundian dialogue participated in inter-Burundian consultations on May 21-24 in Arusha to try to end the year-long political crisis, but some members of the radical opposition boycotted the session.

The facilitator in the Burundian conflict, Benjamin Mkapa, had pledged to meet stakeholders that had not been able to attend the Arusha talks.

It is in that context that he met in Brussels leaders of the National Council for the Restoration of the Arusha Agreement and the Rule of Law in Burundi (CNARED).

In January, the inter-Burundian dialogue had failed to resume in Arusha following the boycott by the Burundian government, arguing that it could not sit “on the same table” with what it called “non-peaceful” stakeholders.

Burundi is facing a year-long political crisis that broke out since April 2015 following the announcement by Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza that he would be seeking a third term.

His candidature, which was opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted into a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup on May 13, 2015.

Over 451 persons are reported to have been killed since then while some 270,000 citizens sought exile in neighboring countries.