Burundi not against peace talks, assures Dr Mahiga

08Jan 2016
Our Reporter
The Guardian
Burundi not against peace talks, assures Dr Mahiga

CHAIRPERSON of the EAC Council of Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga has denied allegations that Burundi boycotted a consultative meeting on the way forward to avert the crisis in the country.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

Dr Mahiga who is also the Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation, East Africa and International Cooperation Minister said the talks were up and running even though the dialogue on peace talks scheduled for Wednesday night failed to take place.
He further reiterated the need for parties in Burundi to embrace political dialogue as the only feasible way to end the crisis in the country.
The diplomat’s assurance follows a no show by Burundians in the consultative meeting held throughout Wednesday night and claims that resurfaced on the same day that the Burundi government had ruled out participating in peace talks at the East African Community headquarters arguing that it breached the agreement date for dialogue.
Joseph Bangurambona, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Burundi had earlier claimed that there was no set agreement on the new date for dialogue between Burundians.
The official maintained that delegates from his country would not travel to the EAC headquarters in Arusha arguing that January 6 was not 'a valid date' for talks and said that they have to solve other irregularities before agreeing on a date to resume the talks.
However, briefing reporters after a 5 hour long closed door intensive consultative meeting, Dr Mahiga said the dialogue scheduled for January 6 did not take place due to ‘ongoing consultations in Burundi’.
“It is not true that Burundi have snubbed the talks, they have notified us that they are still planning on whom to send for the talks,” noted the diplomat.
According to Dr Mahiga, the meeting had earlier committed to intensify consultations with the Burundi government and the opposition with a view of continuing the country’s political dialogue as soon as possible.
“But it was still important to convene the consultative meeting to deliberate on the way we could help our neighbours despite their absence,” he said.
In another development, Dr Mahiga cautioned that there is the possibility that Burundi clashes could spill over to the neighbouring countries and called for efforts to demilitarize and depoliticize refugee camps.
He said if there is a problem in one country and it is not well controlled, it might spill over to other countries as well.
The consultative meeting comes as a follow up on the re-launch of the dialogue convened in Kampala on December 28 last year by President Yoweri Museveni in his capacity as the facilitator of the Burundi dialogue.
The meeting was also attended by the Angolan Minister for Foreign Affairs Georges Chikoti who doubles as the chairperson of the Regional Inter-Ministerial Committee of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
Others in attendance included Ugandan minister for Defense Crispus Kiyonga, EAC chief Dr Richard Sezibera and Kassimi Banda from the African Union Office in Burundi.
The talks in Arusha were announced last month as part of regional efforts to resolve the crisis. Meanwhile, on Monday, explosions hit the capital Bujumbura, injuring at least two people, police and civil society representatives said.