The chief executive officer of the Forum for Strengthening the Civil Society (FORSC) in Burundi says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration has shown bad faith in the ongoing peace talks.
Vital Nshimirimana made the comment Thursday after the government issued a statement saying the presidential election will proceed on the July 21 rescheduled date, despite the peace negotiations.
Regional leaders recently chose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to help the Burundians resolve the crisis that has forced more than 140,000 to flee to neighboring countries.
The government’s announcement followed Thursday’s peace talks between representatives of the administration and oppositions groups mediated by Uganda’s Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga.
Nshimirimana questioned the impact the peace talks will now have on resolving the crisis, adding that the government’s action undermines efforts to restore peace in the East African country.
“This is to say that the government doesn’t want to listen to other parties and the same being the cause of the crisis. So, this is a message that might say that the government is in bad faith of talking with other parties,” said Nshimirimana.
He said the opposition and civil society groups are disappointed. Nshimirimana said the crisis will worsen if the administration insists on proceeding with the election without resolving opposition concerns. He also said the opposition and civil society groups would consider abandoning the talks.
“People were surprised to see the call from the government to hold the election on the 21st July,” said Nshimirimana. “This might be the [the cause of] the escalation of the conflict, and this is the worse message to send to the people, to the facilitator and to the other parties as well.”
Nshimirimana said the government seems to have dismissed Museveni’s suggestion that the presidential vote be postponed to allow challenges the country faces to be resolved at the negotiations before the election.
Foreign Minister Alan Nyamitwe told VOA the negotiations have been positive, which he said could help reduce tensions ahead of the election.
"It has never been the case that the sides would have to resolve all the issues before the elections…They said some of the issues have to be discussed among stakeholders so that the elections are held in a less tense environment and that is exactly what has been going on. Although we wish that the region and other international actors were here even before long time we entered into this situation," said Nyamitwe.
But Nshimirimana said the government appears to want to repeat the circumstances surrounding the legislative and local elections. Opposition groups boycotted those elections citing security concerns. They contend that Nkurunziza is violating the constitution by his decision to lead the ruling CNDD-FDD party to seek a controversial third term.
Supporters of the administration, however, insist that the CNDD-FDD can choose whomever the group wants to lead the party in the presidential vote.