Burundi: Museveni to probe killings, talks off to a rough start

BURUNDI'S FORMER LEADERS: From left, Pierre Buyoya, Sylivestre Ntibantunganya, Domitien Ndayizeye and Jean Baptist Bagaza

BURUNDI’S FORMER LEADERS: From left, Pierre Buyoya, Sylivestre Ntibantunganya, Domitien Ndayizeye and Jean Baptist Bagaza

The mediator in the talks to end escalating violent conflict in Burundi, Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni has told warring parties that he will send a team to the Central African nation to investigate mass killings.

President Museveni made the revelation Monday in Entebbe, Uganda as he presided over the opening of dialogue between the political players in the conflict.

“I’m going to send a team privately as Uganda and as the chief mediator to investigate the reports of extra-judicial killings because that we shall not agree to,” Museveni told representatives of the Burundian government, opposition and civil society.

The 8-month conflict recently turned deadlier as 87 bodies were discovered on the streets of Bujumbura especially in the opposition strongholds of Nyakabiga, Musaga and Cibitoke.

The Ugandan leader counselled that the “pseudo-ideology” of sectarianism was lethal and not beneficial to the Burundian people.

President Museveni reiterated his earlier message opponents in the conflict when he first met with them in July to put the interests of Burundi first.

“If you are only looking out for power, then you are an enemy to the people of Burundi,” he said

Meanwhile, talks in Uganda set off to a rocky start as representatives of the government in Bujumbura vowed not to negotiate with “coup plotters.”

“Before we start the negotiations, there are things that must be addressed. Those who participated in the coup attempt should not participate,” Victor Burikukikiye, the First Deputy Chairperson of the ruling CNDD-FDD  told participants at the talks referring to members of the new opposition coalition based in the diaspora CNARED.

The government representatives also want the issue of neighbouring Rwanda training and arming refugees be included on the agenda.  “For us to end this the conflict, its better we be open and say what the problem is. There has been recruitment of Burundian refugees in Rwanda to distabilise Burundi,” Willy Nyamitwe, Burundi’s Foreign Minister said at the talks.

For the opposition and civil society, they said the past elections contravened the country’s constitution and therefore they should be annulled and fresh election be scheduled. Opposition also has embraced the African Union proposal to deploy 5000 peacekeepers to the conflict-torn nation, a move that has been staunchly opposed by the authorities in Bujumbura and thousands of Burundians who recently took to the streets in protest.

The mediator advised the warring parties not to set condition before talks begin.

The first day of talks saw Burundi’s four former presidents including Pierre Buyoyo and Domitien Ndayizeye attend the proceedings. The US, UN, and the East African Community (EAC) also sent representatives to the talks.

Observers say it is hard if not impossible for the parties in Uganda to reach a common ground that would lead to the restoration peace in Burundi.