BUJUMBURA - Burundi’s foreign affairs minister says the government is ready to talk to opposition parties and other opponents of President Pierre Nkurunziza's re-election bid, which resulted in a landslide victory last week.
Opposition parties boycotted last week's presidential election in Burundi, and United Nations electoral observers said the overall environment in Burundi was not conducive to free and fair elections.
The government is insisting it won the election fairly. In an interview with VOA, Burundian Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Nyamitwe says the high turnout, reported at 74 percent, was a sign people have faith in the country’s political leaders and systems.
“Frankly speaking, I continue to believe firmly that the atmosphere was okay, that people were able to go and vote is a testimony to the fact that people believed in their leaders, people believed in the peace that they have enjoyed over the last couple of years,” he said.
President Nkurunziza is set to begin a third term after coasting to victory with 69 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, opposition leader Agathon Rwasa, won 19 percent.
However, the president is facing challenges. On Thursday, Rwasa became deputy speaker in parliament.
And according to Reuters news agency, a group of exiled opposition figures, including three former presidents and the leaders of a failed coup, met in Ethiopia's capital Thursday to discuss setting up an alternative Burundi government.
Nyamitwe says the government is ready for talks with political opponents — but the will of the people must be considered too.
"Let us dialogue, let us discuss, let us talk on all those issues they think are contentious," he said. "But I believe that at the end of the day the people of Burundi should be given an opportunity also to say what they think.”
Human rights groups have accused Burundian security forces and the Imbonerakure militia group of attacking and intimidating protesters and voters during the heated election period.
Some opposition members have expressed concern that the president, having broken the two-term limit in the constitution, may try to do away with term limits altogether.
Nyamitwe tells VOA that he does not support any constitutional changes, and that it is up to Burundians to decide the future of their country.
“I do not applaud changing the rules of the game ... it's up to the people to decide, and when I say 'the people,' I am not saying a few people in the capital," he said. "I am talking about people generally in the country.”
During his Nairobi visit on Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama denounced the recent Burundi election as "not credible" and said the U.S. wants to see a dialogue between the government and opposition.