Burundi could lose chance to host Comesa Sum­mit

Bu­jum­bura was hop­ing to use the meet­ing to bring some much needed forex into the coun­try

The East African - - NEWS - By JULIUS BARIGABA The Eastafrican

BURUNDI’S CHANCE of host­ing the next sum­mit of the Com­mon Mar­ket for East­ern and South­ern Africa hangs in the bal­ance for fail­ing to meet host­ing re­quire­ments.

A source said only “an un­likely” or “over­whelm­ing sym­pa­thy vote” dur­ing the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters meet­ing on Novem­ber 3-4 can turn the ta­bles in Burundi’s favour, but Comesa has al­ready con­sid­ered tak­ing the sum­mit to Lusaka, Zam­bia.

The source fur­ther told The Eastafrican that re­quire­ments like In­ter­net that are con­sid­ered ba­sic for a sum­mit are not in place in Bu­jum­bura, and that the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters of the 19-mem­ber state bloc is ex­pected to en­dorse a de­ci­sion that the Comesa Sec­re­tariat took in July, which will be bind­ing.

This would be a blow to Burundi, which hoped to use the Sum­mit to bring into the coun­try some much needed forex.

The coun­try has grap­pled with a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis since April 2015, leav­ing it with short­age of for­eign currency and neg­a­tive eco­nomic growth ac­cord­ing to the World Bank 2016 Report.

The over 1,000 Comesa del­e­gates com­ing in with forex would help plug this hole and re­plen­ish the near empty re­serves on which the Burundi gov­ern­ment is run­ning.

The 20th Comesa Sum­mit had ini­tially been sched­uled for Oc­to­ber 920 in Bu­jum­bura. How­ever, of­fi­cials in July were dis­sat­is­fied with Burundi’s lo­gis­ti­cal ca­pac­ity to host the 2017 Comesa pol­icy or­gans meet­ings and sum­mit. On July 20, Comesa sec­re­tary gen­eral Sindiso Ng­wenya for­mally wrote to the Burundi gov­ern­ment not­ing that its des­ig­nated sta­tus as host had been with­drawn.

The Comesa boss took is­sue with Burundi’s Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza for skip­ping the 19th Comesa Sum­mit that took place in Oc­to­ber last year in Mada­gas­car. In ad­di­tion, Burundi was ill-pre­pared for the task.

On July 26, Bu­jum­bura dis­missed the de­ci­sion as one based on “un­founded rea­sons” with the Min­is­ter for Trade and In­dus­try Pélate Niy­onkuru say­ing Burundi and Comesa of­fi­cials who formed the steer­ing com­mit­tee for the 2017 sum­mit had been jointly pre­par­ing for the con­fer­ence since March.

The Eastafrican has learnt that Burundi’s protest prompted Comesa to beat a hasty re­treat and left the 37th Coun­cil of Min­is­ters to de­cide the coun­try’s fate.

“The Sum­mit was de­ferred from the dates set to pro­vide more time for prepa­ra­tions,” said Comesa head of pub­lic re­la­tions Mwangi Gakunga. “Fresh dates will be com­mu­ni­cated dur­ing the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters meet­ing. The min­is­ters will ad­vise on whether the venue will change … For clar­ity, as things stand, the next host for the Sum­mit is still Burundi.”

“The Sum­mit was de­ferred to pro­vide more time for prepa­ra­tions.” Mwangi Gakunga., Comesa head of pub­lic re­la­tions

Pic­ture: AFP

A demon­stra­tion in Bu­jum­bura against peace talks to re­solve the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in Burundi.

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