Ban Ki-moon to Burundi leaders: summon Arusha Peace Agreement spirit and find common ground

President Pierre Nkurunziza, his nomination for the controversial third term triggered the current conflict

President Pierre Nkurunziza, his nomination for the controversial third term triggered the current conflict

As Burundi marks fifteen years since the momentous Arusha Peace Agreement was signed, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the country’s leaders both in Burundi and abroad to invoke the essence of the deal and resolve their differences through dialogue.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Ki-moon beseeched the leaders of the Central African conflict-ravaged nation to build on the calm the peace accord brought about.

“Today, Burundi marks the fifteenth anniversary of the initial signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Tanzania. This process gave birth to the first generation of Burundians with no direct experience of war since independence,” the UN boss said

He added, “Never has the spirit of Arusha been as sorely tested as in the past five months” referring to the tumultuous electoral process period that is threatening to plunge the country back into the civil war.

Ban Ki-moon rallied all Burundians emulate the spirit of “dialogue, consensus, democracy and peaceful resolution of disputes embodied by the Arusha Agreement.”

“No matter how great these differences may seem, they are smaller than the price of returning to violence,” the UN chief warned Burundi leaders.

The 2000 Arusha deal, brokered by former South African President, Nelson Mandela eventually led to the end of the blood civil war that had devastated the country.

This April protests broke out Burundi following the governing party’s decision to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza for the third term and the country hasn’t experienced peace and stability since.

Despite the fact that President Nkurunziza and his new government have been sworn in, the situation remains volatile and deadly.

Grenade attacks and gun fire still rock the capital Bujumbura at night, and residents and even political leaders and members of the security forces are fearful of their own safety.

Recent high profile assassinations involving the killing of former army chief of staff, Col. Jean Bikomagu, and Lieutenant Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, former head of Internal Security and a close ally of President Nkurunziza have been described by many as “politically motivated violence.”

Experts have warned if leaders don’t return to the negating table and resolve their differences, the Arusha Peace Agreement gains could be easily undone.

The conflict has led to the death of more than 100 and more than 150, 000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries for safety.

Peace calls by the UN Secretary General notwithstanding, former government officials who have fled the country after opposing President Nkurunziza’s third term and other opposition figures formed a new opposition movement the National Council for the Restoration of the Rule of Law and Democracy (CNARED) to take on the current government.

To notable names in this new organisation are ex-2nd Vice-President Gervais Rufyikiri, and ex-Parliamentary speaker Pie Ntavyohanyuma. The duo fled to Belgium at the peak of the 4 month conflict weeks before the July 21 presidential poll.

Also, there has been consistent talk of a rebel attack but the authorities in Bujumbura have quashed this as “enemy propaganda.”

Renegade generals who orchestrated the May 13 failed coup have claimed responsibility of the recent string of grenade attacks, and have also threatened to “keep fighting” until they force President Nkurunziza out of power.