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E. African Legislative Group to Begin Burundi Crisis Hearing

FILE - Election officials start counting the ballots after polls closed in the presidential elections in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 21, 2015.
FILE - Election officials start counting the ballots after polls closed in the presidential elections in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

Worries about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Burundi have prompted a public hearing about the crisis by the Conflict Resolution Committee of the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA).

The hearing will be held in the Tanzanian city, Arusha, on Friday.

Groups within the region, including the Pan African Lawyers Union, East African Civil Society Organization’s Forum and the East Africa Law Society, had jointly petitioned the speaker of EALA about their concerns.

The crisis has left scores dead and has so far forced over 200,000 to flee their homes to neighboring countries.

Abdullah Mwinyi, chairman of the Conflict Resolution Committee, says his group expects to hear from the petitioners, civil society and opposition groups as well as the government in Bujumbura. He says the committee will then present its report to the entire EALA for deliberation and recommendations on how best to help resolve the Burundian crisis.

In a formal response to the committee after being invited to participate, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s administration said officials would be available from January 18.

Mwinyi expressed optimism they would show up.

“I am optimistic that on this particular occasion the government will send as they have said so in their formal letter to us,” he said.

Mwinyi says his committee finds it important for all the stakeholders to be given the opportunity to present their assessment of the current situation in Burundi. This, he says will enable his group to come up with a thorough report to be presented to members of the EALA.

“Our initial plan was to have this report [on Burundi] submitted in the upcoming plenary, which will start in the 24th of January. But before we have received a request from the Burundian government that they would wish to put their presentation at a later date, we will await and give everybody the opportunity available to the government of Burundi for them to come and appear before our committee,” he said.

The Burundian government recently rejected a proposal by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to send peacekeepers to the country to help protect civilians caught in the crossfire of the escalating security situation in the country.

Mwinyi says it is too early for the continental body to send troops, adding that dialogue is the best way to resolve the crisis in Burundi.

“I believe the approach should always be an inclusive approach. We have to be careful not to alienate any party. The situation is difficult but we must take into account the government of the day," he said.

“Personally, I don’t believe at this particular point in time it is correct to bring in the forces. I think that could do more harm than good," he added. "That option may be necessary at a later date, but at this point in time I think our efforts within the East African community, I believe will bear fruit.”