President Jacob Zuma has arrived the Republic of Burundi, a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa.
He was accompanied by leaders of four other African nations – Mauritania, Senegal, Gabon and Ethiopia. The African leaders’ visit to Burundi was okayed by the African Union during its 26th summit held in Ethiopia last month. The visit seeks to annihilate a 10-month political crisis that’s claimed more than 440 lives.
Burundian government officials confirmed that Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Senegalese President Macky Sall arrived the country late Wednesday. They were received by Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza at a function at the airport in the capital, Bujumbura.
South African President Jacob Zuma, Ethiopian Premier Hailemariam Desalegn and Gabon’s President Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba arrived early Thursday.
The African leaders’ two-day visit was propelled by a Human Rights Watch report, which said that Burundian authorities have targeted their opponents using “increased brutality,” with government forces “killing, abducting, torturing, and arbitrarily arresting scores of people at an alarming rate.” The leaders’ visit is expected to pave way for peace and bring to an end to national unrest that’s forced about 230,000 people to flee Burundi since April.
The crisis in Burundi sparked off when President Nkurunziza announced his intention to run for his third presidential election. This caused lots of protest from all quarters. Opposition parties said Nkurunziza’s third term is illegal, while the African Union, European Union and the US State Department have all said that July’s election that ushered in Nkurunziza was not free nor fair.
In mid-May 2015, rebel generals attempted a coup, which failed. However, when the election was conducted, Nkurunziza won 69.41 percent of the vote, an immediate first round victory. And in August, he took the “oath for a new term of five years”.
Meanwhile, reports said President Zuma has postponed a planned visit to Iraq next week. A new date for his visit is being decided by authorities in Tehran.
In the mean time, Buzzsouthafrica has gathered that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza has agreed to hold talks to end the 10-month-old crisis. After meeting with Mr Nkurunziza as well as government and some opposition politicians, Ban Ki-moon said that all sides had accepted inclusive dialogue” and that the president “confirmed, that he would engage in political dialogue.”
“This dialogue concerns all Burundians, except those engaged in acts of destabilization,” Mr Nkurunziza said after Ban’s visit.
But hours later, the influential CNARED umbrella opposition party, whose leaders have been in exile dismissed the plan as a “false opening”. They accused the president of being insincere.
“It is a false opening because, in effect, the president told the UN Secretary General that he accepts inclusive dialogue and then immediately afterwards wants to choose his interlocutors, accusing some of disrupting security,”
“He says one thing and then its opposite,” Mr Nyangoma said. “It is clear Nkurunziza does not want real negotiations to bring peace to Burundi,” CNARED chairman Leonard Nyangoma reportedly said.