Now en­voys want AU to take over peace talks

The East African - - NEWS - Pic: AFP By DICTA ASIIMWE Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

7.589 per cent. In 2018, un­der non-demo­cratic con­di­tions, the “Yes” won, ac­cord­ing to the CENI, with 73 per cent of the votes and the “No car­ried 19 per cent.

This ref­er­en­dum is turn­ing against its au­thors. In fact, it re­veals a deep at­tach­ment of Bu­run­dian society to the Arusha com­pro­mise and its ma­jor­ity op­po­si­tion to con­sti­tu­tional ma­nip­u­la­tion aimed at dis­tort­ing it. For­tu­nately, the ap­pren­tice ma­nip­u­la­tors did their job shod­dily. As a re­sult, the Con­sti­tu­tion they have drafted is preg­nant with many more set­backs. The CNDD-FDD party does not have four-fifths of the seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly, it is not out of the woods. An­toine Kabu­rahe, the founder and direc­tor of the Iwacu Press Group, has fol­lowed Bu­run­dian pol­i­tics for more than 25 years. Jean François Bastin spent most of his career at the Bel­gian of­fi­cial tele­vi­sion sta­tion, RTBF, for which he cov­ered many African con­flicts, in­clud­ing those in Rwanda and Bu­rundi. EAST AND Horn of Africa en­voys to the Euro­pean Union want the African Union to take over the Bu­rundi peace talks, sug­gest­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity could be los­ing faith in the re­gional bloc’s ne­go­ti­a­tion process.

The am­bas­sadors’s rec­om­men­da­tions, made re­cently at a meet­ing in Kam­pala, come two weeks af­ter African Union Com­mis­sion (AUC) chair­per­son Moussa Faki Ma­hamat pointed out in a letter to Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni that the East African Com­mu­nity-led en­gage­ment had so far not de­liv­ered.

The AUC chair­per­son also asked Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni to stop the ref­er­en­dum to amend Bu­rundi’s con­sti­tu­tion, which would al­low Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza to po­ten­tially re­main in of­fice un­til 2034. More than 70 per cent of vot­ers voted “Yes” in the May 17 ref­er­en­dum.

Mr Ma­hamat warned that the ref­er­en­dum could trig­ger fur­ther in­sta­bil­ity in Bu­rundi.

While both the con­ti­nen­tal body and the re­gional bloc’s lead­ers are smart­ing from Bu­rundi’s forg­ing ahead with the vote to change the law, the fact that they only of­fered lack­lus­tre protests has brought into doubt their com­mit­ment to a res­o­lu­tion and in­flu­ence on the lead­er­ship in Bu­jum­bura.

The fail­ure by Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni, who is the cur­rent chair­per­son of the EAC and me­di­a­tor of the Bu­rundi cri­sis to stop the ref­er­en­dum is be­lieved to have partly prompted the call for the AU, backed by the United Na­tions to take over the process.

“The logic of the way Africa deals with such de­vel­op­ments is that re­gions like EAC are the first point of call. If the re­gion comes to a point and con­clu­sion that it can­not de­liver, and I think we have reached that stage, then the African Union should step in, with sup­port from the United Na­tions,” said Euro­pean Ex­ter­nal Ac­tion Ser­vices man­ag­ing direc­tor for Africa Koen Var­vaeke.

The Euro­pean gov­ern­ments cur­rently im­ple­ment­ing sanc­tions against Bu­rundi’s gov­ern­ment say that, if the AU and UN can take up the ne­go­ti­a­tions, they will pro­vide the necessary prac­ti­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port for the process to suc­ceed.

A quick fix?

Uganda’s Min­is­ter of State for In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs Okello Oryem, how­ever, said that the EAC ne­go­ti­a­tion process led by Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni has not yet failed and that it is only a mat­ter of time.

“The sit­u­a­tion in Bu­rundi, just like the one in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and South Su­dan can’t be dealt with overnight. Any­body ex­pect­ing a quick fix is dream­ing,” said Mr Oryem.

He added that Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni will de­liver a peace­ful solution to the Bu­rundi cri­sis, just like he did with the Arusha peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion agree­ment, which was signed in 2000, al­low­ing the coun­try 10 years of peace.

Bu­rundi had been restive for most of its post-in­de­pen­dence years, but the Arusha agree­ment guar­an­teed two terms for each leader, pro­vid­ing a solution that ap­peared to work un­til 2015, when Pres­i­dent Nku­run­z­iza de­cided he would be stand­ing for a third term.

Pres­i­dent Nku­run­z­iza’s an­nounce­ment sparked demon­stra­tions that later be­come vi­o­lent due to a failed coup and the in­volve­ment of Im­bon­er­akure-the rul­ing party’s youth wing, which has been ac­cused of mur­der­ing and rap­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. Bu­rundi has since been un­sta­ble ex­pe­ri­enc- ing spo­radic con­flict, mass mur­ders and as­sas­si­na­tions of high pro­file in­di­vid­u­als.

Mr Oryem’s claim that Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni de­liv­ered the Arusha agree­ment is how­ever a bit of a stretch, as many other lead­ers on the con­ti­nent in­clud­ing South Africa’s Nel­son Man­dela and Tan­za­nia’s Julius Ny­erere were in­volved.

The team led by Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni on the other hand has not re­ceived as much back­ing, since some members of Bu­rundi’s op­po­si­tion said from the out­set that the Ugan­dan leader lacked the moral author­ity to get Pres­i­dent Nku­run­z­iza to re­spect his coun­try’s laws.

The AU’S Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil also seemed to have mis­giv­ings about the EAC’S abil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate an ac­cept­able deal. The AU Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pushed for the de­ploy­ment of peace troops in Bu­jum­bura, just months af­ter Pres­i­dent Mu- sev­eni was ap­pointed ne­go­tia­tor.

While this re­quest did not re­ceive enough back­ing from the AU heads of state, it quickly be­came clear that Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni lacked the concentration, and ac­cord­ing to some, the in­cli­na­tion to ne­go­ti­ate a peace deal in Bu­rundi. This prompted the EAC to ap­point for­mer Tan­za­nian pres­i­dent Ben­jamin Mkapa as fa­cil­i­ta­tor. Pres­i­dent Mkapa was sup­posed to carry out the ne­go­ti­a­tions and re­port to Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni and other EAC lead­ers.

But the process with Pres­i­dent Mkapa is not work­ing ei­ther, as there have been very few op­por­tu­ni­ties for the par­ties in the Bu­rundi con­flict to ne­go­ti­ate since the gov­ern­ment in Bu­jum­bura has been un­will­ing to meet some of its op­po­nents.

Asked whether the peace talks will at some point take off, David Miy­eye Kapya an as­sis­tant to Pres­i­dent Mkapa in the ne­go­ti­a­tions seemed to blame Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni for the cur­rent impasse.

“Since you are in Kam­pala, you should ask the me­di­a­tor. He is the one han­dling these is­sues,” he told The Eastafrican.

Pic­ture: AFP

Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza’s de­ci­sion in 2015 to run for a third term sparked vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions in Bu­rundi.

on May 17.

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