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Regional Foreign Ministers to Meet Monday on Burundi

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, center, is escorted on his way to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 13, 2015.

East African foreign ministers plan to meet on Monday in Arusha, Tanzania, to discuss the latest developments in Burundi.

This, following the attempted overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government ahead of another anticipated regional heads of state summit, according to Assah Mwambene, spokesman for the government of Tanzania.

Regional leaders who met on Wednesday asked leaders in Burundi to end the violence, and postpone the scheduled election until the crisis is resolved.

The leaders condemned the attempted overthrow of the government in Bujumbura, following weeks of protests against Nkurunziza’s controversial re-election bid.

“What the regional Council of Ministers is going to do is basically to assess the situation in Burundi,” said Mwambene. “After their meeting definitely there would be another meeting that would involve heads of state in terms of getting the briefing from people who are on the ground on the basic situation in Burundi.”

Nkurunziza came under pressure after the ruling CNDD-FDD chose him to represent the party in the presidential vote. Both opponents and international groups condemned the move as against the constitution.

But, Tanzanian government spokesman Mwambene said accusations against Nkurunziza’s re-election bid are misplaced.

“If you read the constitution of Burundi, President Nkurunziza had served only one elected term. The first one he got the mandate of being the president from parliament and this is not what is stipulated in the constitution. So, in fact, if you want to stick to and respect the Burundian constitution, then we must confirm that Nkurunziza is seeking a second term not a third term,” said Mwambene.

Burundi was scheduled to hold legislative elections this month and the presidential poll in June.

But, some experts say there is a need for an international peacekeeping force to intervene to help restore peace in Burundi. They also are calling for a snap election, saying that Nkurunziza should be prevented from participating in the anticipated election.

Mwambene says it would be unconstitutional to prevent incumbent President Nkurunziza from participating in the presidential vote.

“Whether wisdom should prevail to ask Nkurunziza to step down, that would be an issue out of the constitution,” said Mwambene.” The opposition [saying] he is seeking a third term and he is extending the mandate which is basically in terms of law, it is wrong.”

Mwambene said the government in Dodoma is working with regional leaders to help resolve the crisis in Burundi to pave way for peaceful elections.

“There is no excuse that one can give that can merit losing life and this we have made very clear to President Nkurunziza and the authorities in Burundi that they must do all they can to ensure that the killing stops. And that is the major issue that would also form part of discussion on the forthcoming Council of Ministers meeting… The two warring parties in Burundi should respect the constitution,” he said.

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