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East Africa Officials Meet Burundi Government, Stakeholders

A policeman holds his rifle during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 20, 2015.

The Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC) and Tanzania’s East Africa Community Minister are meeting with all stakeholders in Burundi in a bid to resolve the political unrest there, says Assah Mwambene, spokesman for the government of Tanzania.

East African foreign ministers met on Monday after a recent regional heads-of-state summit to find solutions to the crisis in Burundi, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial re-election bid. The heads of state called on all parties in Burundi to respect the country’s constitution.

Mwambene says the two EAC officials have called on both the government and opponents to ensure peace and stability is restored ahead of next month’s vote.

Postponed Legislative Elections

Mr. Nkurunziza announced on state television late Wednesday that the upcoming parliamentary elections would be delayed until June 5 because of recent political violence.

But Mwambene said that was not enough time. “Ten days is not enough to allow, say for instance…Burundian refugees who have fled to Rwanda and Tanzania, and so they are seeking that the government should do more in order to allow the space for these refugees who have fled the country to return.”

He continued: “To postpone the election that we have seen the government do, but these ministers feel the government should do more. Give more time for this democratic process to be done so that even the Burundians who have fled the country should have an opportunity to come [home] and vote in Burundi.”

Nkurunziza has called on the refugees to return home to part of the election, despite the ongoing unrest.

Calls for Restraint

Mwambene says the two EAC officials condemned Thursday’s killing of two demonstrators. Protesting Nkurunziza’s re-election bid, they were killed during clashes with security officials in the capital, Bujumbura. The crisis has left several dead and an estimated 105,000 have been forced to flee to neighboring Rwanda and Tanzania.

“The two parties should refrain from killing and doing any act that is likely to cause havoc and a state of insecurity in Burundi,” Mwambene said.

The African Union (AU) has called for restraint and dialogue to resolve the crisis. The continental body recently sent a delegation led by the former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kodjo to hold consultations with all stakeholders in the country.

Mwambene says the EAC supports the stance of the AU adding that Burundians would decide what’s best for them.

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