We don’t want Sezibera on mediation team, say Burundi politicians

GET OUT OF THE TALKS: Burundians want East Africa Secretary General, Amb. Richard Sezibera excluded from the talks because of his Rwandan connection

GET OUT OF THE TALKS: Burundians want East Africa Secretary General, Amb. Richard Sezibera excluded from the talks because of his Rwandan connection.

Due to the prevailing tension between Rwanda and Burundi, a number of prominent Burundians does not want the East African Community Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, a Rwandan national, to play any role in the ongoing dialogue aimed at ending the turmoil in Rwanda’s neighbor to the south.

Months after a diplomatic incident that saw him violently manhandled by Burundi security officers on October 28, 2015 while he was in Burundi on official duty, some politicians and civil society activists say Dr. Sezibera should not be involved in the dialogue, accusing him of acting on behalf of the radical opposition and the Rwandan President Paul Kagame against the current government.

Penta Hayimana, national coordinator of the African Compassion Ministries (MAC), one of the civil society organizations in Burundi, accuses the EAC Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera of favouring the opposition in the current political dialogue.

According to Ms Hayimana. the facilitator, Ugandan leader, Yoweri Museveni, should not allow Dr. Sezibera to “interfere into the conflict of Burundi”.

She said Sezibera is not a reliable person to take part in the talks, that he is leaning towards the National Council for the Respect of the Arusha Agreement, the Constitution and the Rule of Law (CNARED), an opposition coalition Bujumbura considers radical, and with whom the government has rejected to negotiate.

“We know that before the recent gathering in Entebbe, he met in private the CNARED leaders in Uganda, but did not invite or meet the government representatives. This is to show that he is siding with the opposition,” Ms Hayimana told Afrika Reporter in an exclusive interview.

Ms Hayimana’s organization is believed to be supportive of President Pierre Nkurunziza and the government but she dismisses pro-government allegations saying she and her colleagues are fighting to rebuild their country.

MAC’s accusations against the EAC secretary general come days after a petiotion calling for Sezibera’s removal was put forth by the chairman of the National Liberation Forces (FNL), an opposition party believed to be allies with the ruling CNDD-FDD.

Jacques Bigirimana, chairman of FNL, echoes Ms Hayimana’s sentiments that Dr. Richard Sezibera should be excluded from the mediation team on and off talks.

“Dr. Richard Sezibera has shown us that he is siding with the radical opposition. We well know that he remained in direct contact with the opposition leaders before the Entebbe gathering,” Bigirimana said.

Birimana also says Dr. Sezibera is advancing the Rwandan leader Paul Kagame’s interests. Earlier in this conflict, Kagame was quoted as saying the Burundian leader should have listened to the voices of his people and not run for the third term

The Rwandan leader has also publicly criticized the leaders in Burundi for partaking in the routine killings for their political gains.

There’s no love lost between Burundians and Ambassador Richard Sezibera, the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), he was roughed up by Burundi’s security agents last October in Bujumbura while in company of Uganda Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, Museveni’s envoy in the talks to end the crisis.

“At the time of the meeting (the dramatic incident at the Burundi Senate), Dr Sezibera was not on the list of delegates led by Mr. Kiyonga. He tried to force his way into the meeting room, and security services of the Senate stopped him with all the courtesies that are in keeping with his title,” the leaders of the Burundian Senate said.

On December 28, last year, as the political dialogue among Burundian conflict stakeholders reopened in Entebbe, Uganda, opposition leaders in Burundi accused Dr. Sezibera of bias against “intra-parliamentary” and “extra-parliamentary” opposition in Burundi saying the EAC boss openly favoured opposition leaders in exile (CNARED).

By press time neither the EAC Secretariat nor the mediation team in Kampala has reacted on these charges from Burundi politicians.