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Ugandan Defense Minister to Help With Burundi Crisis Talks

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a mediation session in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 14, 2015.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a mediation session in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 14, 2015.

Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga is scheduled to arrive in Burundi Thursday to lead discussions aimed at resolving tensions in the country ahead of the rescheduled presidential vote on July 21, according to Burundian Foreign Minister Alan Nyamitwe.

Representatives of the government, opposition and civil society groups plan to meet with the Ugandan minister in a bid to find ways of resolving the crisis in Burundi.

"He will come and remain here permanently to help us sort all those unresolved issues here and there," said Nyamitwe.

Some opposition and civil society groups said that because they reject Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid for a third term, it was inappropriate for regional leaders to choose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as mediator.

But Nyamitwe said Museveni is uniquely qualified to be the mediator to help the country resolve the political challenges it faces, despite criticisms that he has removed term limits from the constitution, enabling him to be president for life if he continues to win elections.

"We all agree that he is a respected statesman in the region. President Museveni was the key architect of the inter-Burundian talks in the '90s till 2005. Nobody has questioned his capacities then. Why should they question his capacities today? For me, there is no doubt about the capacity of President Museveni," said Nyamitwe.

Nyamitwe's comments came after Museveni urged the government in Bujumbura and the opposition and civil society groups to hold talks to end the political crisis. The crisis has so far forced an estimated 140,000 to flee the country into neighboring countries.

Nyamitwe said Museveni's mediation efforts had already been helpful to resolving the crisis.

"So far the process has been positive," said Nyamitwe. "The most positive outcome so far was the fact that both sides have agreed to dialogue under the facilitation of President Museveni. So there is no doubt that this time around, we have hope that we will deliver."

Critics say two weeks is too short a time allotted for Museveni to help negotiate with the two opposing groups to end the crisis. Nyamitwe disagreed.

"It has never been the case that the sides would have to resolve all the issues before the elections. …They said some of the issues have to be discussed among stakeholders so that the elections are held in a less tense environment, and that is exactly what has been going on," Nyamitwe.

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