Burundi negotiates but no opposition


Peace talks aimed at solving Burundi’s year-long crisis resumed on Saturday in Tanzania, but with the opposition barred from the meeting, there was little hope it would help strike a deal.

The talks in the northern town of Arusha brought together Burundian government officials, diplomats and civil society representatives.

But key opposition umbrella group CNARED was not invited.

The Burundian government refuses to sit with key opponents whom it accuses of involvement in a failed May 2015 coup and of months of violence including grenade and rocket attacks.

Talks are expected to run until May 24.

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa, who has been tasked with mediating the talks, said he would use the next five days “to understand the core of the crisis” and to set out a calendar for future meetings, participants told AFP.

Despite its exclusion from this round of talks, Mkapa is confident CNARED will be invited to future meetings, a Western diplomat in Arusha said on condition of anonymity.

“We are conscious that it is a problem that should be solved by the Burundians themselves,” Mkapa said at the start of the Saturday talks.

“My plan is to give all the parties the chance to present their views on Burundi’s future,” he added.

The mediator is expected to hold separate meetings with each side represented in Arusha, starting with the government delegation on Saturday afternoon.

“I am really worried by the dangerous situation in Burundi, especially with regards to assassinations and other acts of violence,” Mkapa said.

Hundreds have been killed and a quarter of a million people have fled Burundi since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial decision in April 2015 to run for a third term, a vote he won amid opposition boycotts in July.


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