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Burundi: Would Welcome S. Africa’s Role in Intra-Burundian Dialogue

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza (c) and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power (l) speak to the media in Gitega, Burundi, Jan. 22, 2016.

Burundi’s government said it would welcome any offer by South Africa to facilitate the ongoing intra-Burundian dialogue.

Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe said although such an offer has yet to be officially made, his government would not refuse it if it is made because South Africa played a critical role in the Burundian peace process in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

East Africa Community-mediated peace talks led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni have so far failed to yield practical results.

The last talks that were scheduled to resume on January 6 in Uganda’s capital, Kampala did not take place because the Burundian government said the date was set by mediators without consulting the government.

Complementary peace effort

Nyamitwe said if South Africa offers to facilitate the dialogue, its role would not be incompatible, but rather complementary to what is being done by President Museveni and the East Africa Community.

“I don’t think it has been confirmed yet, but I believe South Africa, being a country which has immensely contributed to the peace process in Burundi in the late [19]90’s and early 2000, it’s absolutely a country that can play a critical role in the dialogue process that we have embarked upon.”

Nyamitwe said his government has not yet received any request from South Africa, but if such a request is made, it would be formulated and processed through diplomatic channels.

Intra-Burundian dialogue participants

He reiterated that Burundi would not find it to be a problem if South Africa would offer to support the regional efforts on Burundi.

Young men hold a banner on the road that the convoy of the United Nations Security Council delegation took, in Bujumbura, Burundi, Jan. 21, 2016.
Young men hold a banner on the road that the convoy of the United Nations Security Council delegation took, in Bujumbura, Burundi, Jan. 21, 2016.

There has been disagreement on who should participate in the intra-Burundian dialogue.

The Burundian government is on record as saying it will not negotiate with certain opposition figures it considers as “coup plotters” or “sponsors of acts of terrorism."

Nyamitwe said any Burundian can be part of the dialogue as long as they adhere to U.N. Security Council resolution 2248, which calls on the government and all parties to reject violence and refrain from any action that threatened peace and stability.

Jean Minani, the exiled leader of the Opposition Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) told VOA earlier this month that Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza does not want to negotiate because he knows he is the cause of the crisis the country is experiencing today.

“Nkurunziza is the cause of the crisis of Burundi. He’s afraid to come with all the people, with the international community to talk with us because there’s nothing to talk about. He can’t come to talk with us because he knows he has nothing to talk about,” Minani said.