Burundi talks adjourned, opposition pulls out of the presidential race ahead of Tuesday’s poll

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (L), Domitien Ndayizeye (R), both former presidents of Burundi have withdrawn their candidacies for president

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (L), Domitien Ndayizeye (R), both former presidents of Burundi have withdrawn their candidacies for president

The Envoy of the facilitator in talks to end the crisis in Burundi has announced the adjournment of the talks before a consensus on key issues is reached.

In a press conference held late Sunday afternoon in Bujumbura, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, a representative of the Ugandan President Yoweri at the talks between the government and the opposition appreciated that both sides sat together for the first time to discuss contentious issues that have divided Burundian politicians although they haven’t yet found a common ground.

Kiyonga said issues tackled include President Pierre Nkurunziza’s controversial third term, the electoral calendar, insecurity, Unity government, parliamentary end communal elections, and refugees among others. He noted this is an achievement in itself.

Despite the fact that stakeholders in the conflict have agreed to sit and discuss the above conflicting issues, the talks that started on July 15 have stalled without reaching an agreement on sticking issues, including the third term of President Pierre Nkurunziza, the root cause on the ongoing turmoil in the country.

Museveni’s delegate however, was quick to say the adjournment is not a failure, “the talks have not failed. It’s an adjournment as we have given time to the government which may be has got a roadblock on the way and we expect to resume at any time,” he said.

Saturday afternoon, the Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana who represents the government at the talks, came with a mysterious document signed by some of the opposition leaders, including those taking part in the talks, announcing the creation of a movement to stand for the respect of the 2000 Arusha peace agreement of Burundi, and the Constitution.

Because of this development, the government thinks the opposition has a hidden agenda, and thus decided to suspend their participation in the talks.

“The minister of internal affairs told me that he was holding a document that has been issued by the opposition. In his interpretation, it shows the opposition was still involved in underhand activities despite the dialogue. We agreed hence that we adjourn so as two things happen: the document is interpreted to me in English and then the government holds a meeting to discuss the document and its implications,” said Dr. Kiyonga, urging the government that the document should not hold back the dialogue.

The opposition accuses the government of intransigence as a ploy no not discuss key issues like the third term and the electoral calendar.

Burundi is due to hold the long awaited controversial presidential polls Tuesday, and Kiyonga says the talks shall still go on.

Meanwhile, three presidential candidates, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, Domitien Ndayizeye (both former presidents of Burundi) and Dr. Jean Minani have decided to withdraw their candidacies for president as a protest against the government’s decision to force through an election

However, Agathon Rwasa whose coalition came second in the recent parliamentary and communal polls of June 29, has not yet announced his withdrawal from the presidential race.