Secret Burundi peace talks held in Finland
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.