Burundi, EU talks open in Brussels

President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial third term bid sparked the crisis

President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term bid sparked the crisis

A delegation of Burundian government is in the Belgian capital, Brussels, for talks with the European Union to resolve the tension between the two parties as a result of the ongoing political crisis.

According to Article 96 of Cotonou Agreement, the East African Community nation is on the brink of losing all European Union support if the talks do not bear positive results.

Among the key issues on the agenda include reopening of private media, security for journalists and human rights activists, the need for equal justice, and serious investigations into allegations of torture and / or extrajudicial killings.

Other issues to be discussed include the resumption of an inclusive dialogue among all political stakeholders under international facilitation and the disarmament of militias by a neutral party.

Philip Nzobonariba, the government spokesman,  says their delegation’s mission is to explain to the European Union some major issues that have raised concerns in the eyes of  European Union nations since the crisis began in April.

On the reopening of independent media, Nzobonariba told reporters in Bujumbura that the EU should understand that these are few radio stations under investigation for their role in the May 13 foiled coup.

“The message is clear on the side of the Government. When they speak of reopening media, one would think it’s all private media which have been shut down. Our clarification will be based on the number of private media which freely continue with their programs legally, apart from just four radio stations which were victims of the mishap which they were driven into, and which are in conflict with the law not with the Government,” he told Burundi National Broadcaster (RTNB) adding that the fate of the shut media and organizations under legal ban, depends on the outcomes of the ongoing probe.

The government spokesman also said they will try to assure the EU of Burundi’s competency to render justice to victims of the crisis.

“Whoever is involved; be the media practitioners or anyone, must face the wrath of the law. So if the European Union condemned the coup, then we want them to help us prosecute the perpetrators, as well as those who killed innocent people, who burned alive people, and this is why the Government has urged the European Union to extradite all those wanted suspects who fled to their respective countries,” said Nzobonariba

The EU has already warned its non-essential staff to evacuate Burundi as many experts and Western nation continue to believe the conflict-stricken state is on the brink of a catastrophic civil war.  And the organisation has sanctioned Burundi government officials accusing them of fueling the conflict. The Bloc supports Burundi’s annual budget to the tune of 20%.

Belgium, the country’s former colonial power, and its major donor has already suspended its aid package and cautioned all its citizens to leave Burundi.

Other EU nations like Switzerland, Netherlands and Germany have also suspended portions of their assistance to Burundi.

Stakes are high for Burundi as the EU intends to impose more stern measures on the Burundian government.