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Burundi Minister Envisions National Unity Government

President Pierre Nkurunziza arrives riding a bicycle, accompanied by first lady Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza, right, to cast his vote for the presidential election, in Ngozi, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

Burundi’s foreign minister said his government is doing its best to ensure that the country does not degenerate into ethnic conflict by bringing those responsible for violence to justice.

Alain Nyamitwe said President Pierre Nkurunziza has also promised to unveil a national unity government that will respect the Arusha Peace Accord and the recommendations of leaders of the East African Community (EAC).

His comments came after African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned Sunday that the political crisis in Burundi could have catastrophic consequences for the country and the surrounding region. Dlamini-Zuma also stressed the need for dialogue to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the current crisis.

Nyamitwe said Nkurunziza could unveil his new cabinet possibly as early as next week.

“What I can only say is that it is our hope and prayer that our country does not slide to the extent of collapsing into ethnized conflict. We are doing our utmost to make sure that the killings stop, that perpetrators are arrested and brought to book. I also agree that it is imperative to have different stakeholders get into deep discussion and conversation on the issues that divide them,” he said.

Nyamitwe said, despite what some in the international community might think, there is some engagement with respect to the formation of a national unity government. He said Nkurunziza has made progress in putting together such a government.

“I can tell you that when [it] comes to the formation of the government of national unity, His Excellency, the head of state, has accepted to form such [a] government. The discussions are underway, and I can tell you that we are making progress. A few days from now you will be informed about the new cabinet. I can absolutely tell you that that government will comprise members from the ruling party, but also people from the opposition,” Nyamitwe said.

The 2000 Arusha Accord, which ended Burundi’s ethnic civil war, stipulates that 60 percent of members of parliament be from the majority Hutu ethnic group and 40 percent from the minority Tutsis. Three seats are designated to members of the Twa ethnic group. Women must occupy at least 30 percent of the seats in the National Assembly.

“As we speak, after the parliamentary elections which were held on [the] 29th of June, the 21st of July and the 24th of July, the parliamentary institutions, that is the House of Representatives and the Senate, have now been put in place and, in both bodies, the Arusha Accord has been fully respected and even beyond the quotas enshrined in our constitution,” Nyamitwe said.

Nyamitwe criticized what he called some actors in the international community who he said think they have the right to lecture other nations on how they should govern.

“Some of those who are criticizing us do not respect the same quotas in their own institutions. How many women do you have in the parliament of the United States, or how many black people versus white people do you have in America?” he said.

Unidentified gunmen Saturday killed former military chief Jean Bikomagu outside of his home in the capital, Bujumbura. The death follows the recent assassination of the president's security advisor, Adolphe Nshimirimana.

In her statement Sunday, AU Commission chairwoman Dlamini-Zuma said, "This despicable act and multiple other acts of violence recorded in recent months illustrates yet again the gravity of the situation in Burundi - and the real risk of seeing a further deterioration with catastrophic consequences both for the country itself, and for the whole region."

Nyamitwe rejected any suggestion Burundi is descending into chaos. He said his government has condemned both assassinations.

Butty interview with Alain Nyamitwe
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