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Mediator seeks heads of state summit on Burundi crisis

President Museveni meets Tanzania’s Mkapa(left) on Burundi. Mkapa has urged regional leaders to meet to chart way forward

Nairobi, Kenya | AFP | 

The mediator in Burundi’s nearly two-year political crisis on Sunday asked regional leaders to call an urgent summit as deep discord and a government boycott hamper peace talks.

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa wrapped up four days of talks with some 30 Burundian representatives who agreed on the basic problems, but not how to resolve them.

He was tasked with negotiating an end to the crisis which erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term in April 2015, sparking unrest which killed hundreds and left some 400,000 displaced.

The biggest hitch is Burundi’s fierce opposition to the process as long as it includes exiled main opposition group CNARED which it sees as a “terrorist organisation”.

“It is urgent to call a summit of heads of state to examine the obstacles to this process,” said Mkapa.

A diplomat told AFP the summit’s aim would be to get “regional leaders to endorse the process of negotiations … so that it is imposed upon all, notably the very reticent government in Burundi”.

Mkapa had hoped this week’s talks would lead to a statement by all parties denouncing violence, agreeing not to change the Arusha peace accords which ended Burundi’s civil war in 2006 or the constitution, and agreeing plans for 2020 polls.

But between the government’s focus on the next election and the opposition demanding a transition administration and the departure of Nkurunziza before 2020, no consensus was reached, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Despite the government boycott, a representative from the ruling CNDD-FDD was present at the talks.

In a sign of Bujumbura’s hostility, the Burundi embassy wrote a letter Friday asking Tanzanian officials to arrest the CNARED representatives — whom it accuses of leading a foiled coup plot in May 2015. Those accused deny the charge.

Thousands protested the talks in Bujumbura on Saturday at a march organised by government.

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