UGANDA SAYS UNABLE TO SET DATE FOR NEW TALKS BETWEEN BURUNDI’S OPPOSING SIDES

By Pascal Kwesiga

KAMPALA, Uganda, the chief mediator in the Burundi talks, says it is unable to set a new date for the resumption of talks between the Burundi government and the opposition, because of the intricacies involved in efforts to get the two warring factions to the negotiation table.

After the Dec 28 re-launch of the resumption of the peace talks between the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza and the opposition coalition CNARED by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe near here, Jan 6, 2016 was set as the tentative date for the continuation of talks in Arusha, the seat of the East African Community (EAC) in Tanzania.

However, the two parties did not show up in Arusha, with the government insisting it would not entertain talks with armed groups while the opposition called on Nkurunziza to respect the Constitution and the 2006 Arusha peace agreement by stepping down.

Ugandan Defence Minister Chrispus Kiyonga, who is mediating in the conflict on Museveni's behalf, told a news conference at Uganda Media Centre in Kampala on Friday that they were still consulting with all parties before the resumption of actual talks.

"Our role as mediator is to get all the people involved in the conflict to talk. We cannot set a new date because we are still consulting," he added, "The conflict will be solved by Burundians and we are going to intensify consultations with all groups in the conflict to try to get them to the table."

Kiyonga explained that he held a consultative meeting with the chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers, Dr. Augustino Mahiga, and Georges Rebelo Chikoti, the chairperson of the regional inter-ministerial committee of the International Conference on Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Arusha on Jan 6.

Mahiga and Chikoti are foreign ministers in the Governments of Tanzania and Angola respectively. Angola currently chairs the ICGLR.

Echoing Museveni's appeal to the Burundian Government to accept to talk to armed opposition groups, Kiyonga said the insistence by Pierre's administration not to dialogue with rebels should not bog down the peace process.

"We really hope that all sides will eventually accept to talk. I have seen pictures of people being burnt alive in Burundi. This must stop," he added, "I wish I could also meet with the armed opposition groups and convince them to put down their arms for meaningful talks."

Burundi has been ensnared in a political crisis in which close to 400 people have died and about 300,000 forced to flee into neigbouring countries in the East African region. The violence erupted after Nkurunziza launched his bid to stand for another term in office after completing the constitutional two five year terms last April.

He won the controversial election in July, triggering further violence in a country still recovering from a decade long brutal ethnic conflict put to an end by the 2006 Arusha peace accord.

Source: NEW VISION