Se­cret Bu­rundi peace talks held in Fin­land

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - ISSAKA IKPORR IN­DE­PEN­DENT FOR­EIGN SER­VICE

THE GOV­ERN­MENT of Bu­rundi and its op­po­si­tion have been meet­ing in Helsinki, Fin­land, for peace talks since last year.

A gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion of five se­nior of­fi­cials from the regime, led by Bu­run­dian om­buds­man Edouard Nduwimana, have met with an op­po­si­tion del­e­ga­tion led by Chau­vineau Mug­wengezo, the vice-pres­i­dent of Bu­rundi’s main ex­iled op­po­si­tion, CNARED.

The talks are me­di­ated by Cri­sis Man­age­ment Ini­tia­tive (CMI), which was founded in 2002 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008.

CMI also backed Bu­rundi talks backed by the East African Com­mu­nity and led by for­mer Tan­za­nian pres­i­dent Ben­jamin Wil­liam Mkapa, which stalled af­ter the Bu­run­dian gov­ern­ment re­fused to sit at the same peace ta­ble with peo­ple it de­scribed as armed coup plot­ters.

The cri­sis in Bu­rundi, which has riven the coun­try for more than two years, has claimed 1 200 lives so far, say rights groups.

Willy Nyamitwe, from the pres­i­dency’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion unit in the Bu­run­dian gov­ern­ment, de­nied the the talks had taken place, say­ing that no gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial had been sent to Helsinki for such dis­cus­sions.

The Bu­rundi cri­sis has led to 420 000 peo­ple flee­ing the coun­try, although the Bu­rundi gov­ern­ment al­leges that the UN Refugee Agency is ma­nip­u­lat­ing the fig­ures. The gov­ern­ment claims thou­sands have re­turned home.

Bu­rundi of­fi­cials also ar­gue that they are win­ning the diplo­matic bat­tle, claim­ing Tan­za­nia and South Africa as strong al­lies.

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