Burundians welcome Mkapa’s choice as mediator
Burundians have welcomed the appointment of the former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as mediator in the on and off talks to end the 10-month turmoil ravaging the East African nation.
In a joint communiqué issued at the end of the 17th ordinary summit of the East African Community Heads of States in Arusha, Tanzania Wednesday, East African Community leaders tasked Mkapa to oversee peace talks in Burundi and many Burundians have embraced his selection.
Many Burundians view the former Tanzanian leader as a father figure who will use his experience as a leader to bring the warring parties in Burundi back to the negotiating table in an effort to find a lasting solution to crisis.
“Mkapa might be the right man to help Burundians overcome their problems, I know him as a person who assisted Burundians during a crisis in the past, showing them how they must behave,” said Philbert Nzisabira, a resident of the Burundian capital Bujumbura.
Mr. Nzisabira however, added Mkapa “should listen to both sides in the conflict to avoid repeating the same mistakes that were made by the previous mediators.”
“Benjamin Mkapa has closely followed the situation in Burundi for a long time. We just want him to be the right mediator who can contribute to peace and security in Burundi,” said Japhet Nimbona another resident of Bujumbura.
Mkapa’s choice as facilitator has also been lauded by the international community with France and the United States expressing support and optimism the former Tanzanian leader will finally get the parties talking.
Meanwhile, the US State Department has also urged the East African Community leaders to immediately announce a date for the resumption of dialogue with all stakeholders, both inside and outside the country.
Talks between the government and opposition as well the civil society have on several occasions stalled after both sides in the conflict failed to agree on the choice of mediators.
In June last year, the opposition and civil society groups rejected the UN appointed envoy Said Djinnit accusing him of favoring the government but the Bujumbura government also did not see eye to eye with his successor Abddoulaye Bathily accusing him of disrespecting Burundi’s authorities.
Benjamin Mkapa will be replacing Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was appointed by the East African Community Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam in July last year but has failed to make headway in efforts to end the crisis.