UN chief unites Burundi president, opposition to end crisis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gathers Burundi president, opposition and government to end 10-month-old political crisis

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza (L) stands next to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon (R) during a press conference on February 23, 2016 in Bujumbura.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported on Tuesday that Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and the opposition agreed to hold talks to put a stop to the 10-month-old political crisis.


After meeting with Nkurunziza, government and opposition politicians on Tuesday, Ban said that all sides agreed on engaging in political dialogue.

"Burundi's political leaders must be ready to summon the courage and the confidence that will make a credible political process possible," Ban said.

Ban told reporters Pierre Nkurunziza had also assured him media restrictions would be removed during their session - part of a mounting diplomatic push to quell fighting in the central African nation, 10 years after it emerged from an ethnically-charged civil war.

Nkurunziza had also promised to free 1,200 prisoners. "This is an encouraging step. I hope again that additional measures will be taken," Ban said regarding the matter. The presidency later put out a statement saying 2,000 people would be freed.

The night before holding talks with Nkurunziza on Tuesday morning, Ban met with both government and opposition politicians on Monday.

Due to some opponents being in prison and some in exile, it remains unclear with which of his opponents Nkurunziza will be negotiating.

Hours after overnight grenade attacks in several city neighbourhoods, as police reports, left a dozen people injured, Nkurunziza said on Tuesday that this dialogue concerns all Burundians, except those who engage in acts of destabilisation.

The crisis in Burundi emerged when NKurunziza made a controversial decision in April last year to run for a third term which he went on to win in the July election. Opposition parties say his election bid and ultimate win were unconstitutional.

Since then, violent attacks have become a daily routine in Burundi, over 400 people have been killed and more than 240,000 have left the country.

Ban’s visit aims to revive stagnant efforts to end the crisis and comes after the Burundi government seemed to soften its position towards opponents by approving to receive a delegation of African heads of state which is expected to take place later this week.

International arrest warrants against several exiled opposition leaders have also been cancelled by the Burundi government.

Nkurunziza said he had requested help from Ban to help end Rwandan support for Burundian rebels alleged by Burundian authorities and UN investigators.

"We also discussed regional problems and we explained how Rwanda is trying to destabilise us," Nkurunziza said. "We told (Ban) that we had evidence and we asked for UN intervention to push for Rwanda to give it up, so that Burundians and Rwandans can live in harmony as in the past."

TRTWorld and agencies