Burundi: Peace Gets a Shot

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Peace

The Burundi ruling party is to hold talks with some opposition groups to try to end months of violence, President Pierre Nkurunziza has recently said after meeting UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Ban said Nkurunziza had promised to lift media restrictions.

Later, the presidency announced that 2000 prisoners would be freed, but the opposition was sceptical about whether its supporters would be included.

Diplomatic efforts have intensified to quell fighting in the central African nation 10 years after it emerged from an ethnically charged civil war.

President Jacob Zuma is heading to Bujumbura tomorrow for talks on Friday with the leaders of Mauritania, Senegal, Gabon and Ethiopia about Burundi.

“Burundians and the UN agree that inter-Burundian dialogue shall bring together Burundians but the perpetrators of insecurity.will not be involved,” Nkurunziza said.

The government has in the past said it would not talk to anyone involved in the failed coup in May.

Ban yesterday met leaders of political parties in Bujumbura, and then went to the president’s office.

“I was very encouraged that the political leaders, whether in the government, the ruling party or the opposition, promised that they will engage in inclusive dialogue. This is what President Nkurunziza also confirmed,” Ban said.

Ban said freeing prisoners was “encouraging . I hope that additional measures will be taken”.

Thacien Sibomana, spokesman for the opposition Uprona party, was more cautious about the announcement of the release of prisoners.

“We are not sure if he will free opponents. We fear that he will release only his own men. What criteria will [Nkurunziza] use?”

African countries are particularly worried about the violence in a country in which memories are still fresh of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994. Burundi has a similar ethnic make-up to that of Rwanda.

Nkurunziza has rejected African Union plans to send in peacekeepers, saying he would treat their arrival as an invasion.

In his talks with Ban, Nkurunziza reiterated his accusations that Rwanda was interfering in Burundi’s internal affairs.

“We have asked for [UN] support to help us and regarding Rwanda, to stop provoking us, so we can go back to having good neighbourly relations like we used to,” he said.

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