Burundi peace talks moved from Arusha to Bujumbura

06Dec 2016
Edward Qorro
The Guardian
Burundi peace talks moved from Arusha to Bujumbura

IT’S now official. The inter-Burundi peace dialogue has been relocated from Arusha to the troubled country’s capital Bujumbura, and is due to start tomorrow.

Benjamin William Mkapa

A source privy to the talks confirmed to The Guardian yesterday that this latest development comes after a long push by the government.

The third round of talks, to last three days, will be facilitated as usual by the current dialogue mediator and former Tanzanian president Benjamin William Mkapa, the source confirmed.

The change of venue for the dialogue comes months after reports that some delegates were expected to ditch the crucial peace talks, pushing for their relocation to Burundi.

During the first dialogue in May this year, several participants openly expressed their preference for the talks to be held within Burundi.

The Burundi minister of external relations and international cooperation, Alain Aime Nyamitwe, was quoted on the sidelines of that first round of talks as saying they had come to Arusha out of respect of the East African Cooperation (EAC).

“In the first place, we didn’t want to come here, but only for the sake of the EAC, we had to,” Nyamitwe said.

Speaking to The Guardian in June, Burundi’s ambassador in Russia, Guillaume Ruzoviyo said though they were confident with the facilitator, he believed that peace would only return to his country once the dialogue reconvenes in Bujumbura.

The president of the opposition Rally of Democracy in Burundi (RADEBU) opposition party, Jean Didier Mutabazi, also argued on behalf of the lobby to relocate the dialogue to Burundi since it was the Barundi (tribe) who bore the brunt of the current humanitarian crisis in the country.

“We are very happy that Mkapa has since listened to our demands, but still we prefer such dialogues to be held in our own country,” Mutabazi said.

Burundi has not known peace since April last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza made clear his intention to run for a third term in office, a decision seen by many Burundians as trampling over the country’s constitutional arrangements that ended a decade-long civil war.

Three Burundi army officers were arrested over the weekend for suspected involvement in a failed bid to assassinate a top advisor to Nkurunziza, according to police and security sources.

The attack took place late on Monday last week when a group of gunmen ambushed Willy Nyamitwe, the government's top spokesman, as he was returning to his home in the capital Bujumbura. "It’s terrorism," Burundi police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye tweeted late Friday.