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Burundi claims diplomatic win with hosting of regional summit

President Pierre Nkurunziza

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | Burundi’s government claimed a diplomatic victory Friday with the announcement that it would host a regional trade summit later this year.

The tiny central African nation has been in the cold since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s run for a controversial third term in 2015 plunged the country into a protracted political crisis.

The scheduled hosting of the 19-nation COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) summit in April is a “great diplomatic and economic victory,” said a spokesman for Burundi’s presidency.

“President Pierre Nkurunziza yesterday had a meeting with the Secretary-General of COMESA… he had come to confirm the holding of the Summit of Heads of State on April 18 and 19, 2018,” said presidential spokesman Jean-Claude Karerwa Ndenzako.

The summit was originally planned for October 2017 but was cancelled because of a “lack of organisational capacity” in Burundi.

“This time it’s official, COMESA has confirmed that Burundi is ready, that everything is in order for the holding of this summit,” said Karerwa Ndenzako.

“This is a great diplomatic and economic victory for Burundi.”

He said it would be an opportunity, “to show the international community that Burundi lives in peace, that there is no crisis, contrary to what its detractors continue to say.”

Political violence between April 2015 and May 2017 killed at least 1,200 people and forced over 400,000 from their homes, according to the International Criminal Court which is investigating alleged crimes and rights abuses.

The ongoing crisis has also damaged the economy pushing Burundi into last place in the International Monetary Fund’s ranking of the world’s poorest countries last year.

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