African leaders in Burundi to push for talks

South African President Jacob Zuma, head of the African Union 5-member team dispatched to Burundi

South African President Jacob Zuma, head of the African Union 5-member team dispatched to Burundi

The African Union High Level delegation of heads of state and government headed by South African President Jacob Zuma arrived in the Burundian capital Bujumbura for talks with the authorities and stakeholders in the political impasse in an effort to forge dialogue and end the 10-month conflict.

President Zuma is leading fellow leaders President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Macky Sall of Senegal, Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, all of whom will try to convince Burundians to resolve the devastating turmoil.

In his opening speech ahead of their meeting with political party leaders, Jacob Zuma reminded Burundians how the African Union is deeply concerned by the crisis as evidenced by the 5-member team.

“The summit (26th African Union summit) expressed its support for the mediation efforts led by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and urged all parties in Burundi to participate in the mediation efforts in order to find a peaceful solution,” President Zuma said.

The South African emphasized only an inclusive dialogue among all political stakeholders is the only way of solving the challenges facing Burundi.

“We firmly believe that challenges that Burundi faces can only resolved through participating by all parties in inclusive dialogue whose result should be security and stability for the people of Burundi,” he added.

The delegation is expected to meet political leaders, civil society, religious leaders, the National Council for Inter-Burundian Dialogue (CNDI), and President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Although Burundian leaders appreciate the efforts and advice of the AU delegation, they say the solution to Burundi’s problems lies within Burundians themselves.

Agathon Rwasa, one of the main opposition leaders recognizes that the delegation is keen to help Burundi end the crisis but contends it’s up to Burundian politicians to put aside their personal interests and commit themselves to a real dialogue.
According to Léonce Ngendakumana, of FRODEBU party, the leaders and the authorities in Burundi have already agreed to an international mediation.

At the recent 26th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, leaders resolved to form a high powered team to press Burundians to get back to the negotiating table, resolve their differences and end the catastrophe.

The Burundian crisis has thus far claimed about 500 lives and forced thousands into refugee camps in regional countries.
The African Union has also tabled a proposal to deploy 5000 peacekeeping troops in to Burundi but the authorities have flatly rejected the measure.