Reuters reports from Nairobi that the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said Tuesday that Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza agreed to begin an inclusive dialogue to end a months-long political crisis in the central African nation.
"I was very encouraged that the political leaders whether they are ...in government or the ruling party or opposition, they promised that they will engage in inclusive dialogue. This is what President Nkurunziza also confirmed," Ban Ki-Moon told a news conference in Bujumbura.
The UN Secretary General’s comments come after he held talks with Burundi’s leader in the capital, Bujumbura, in a bid to bring fresh impetus to stalled efforts to resolve a crisis that has left more than 400 people dead.
The UN secretary-general, who also met with opposition leaders, said both sides had “promised that they would engage in inclusive dialogue” to end the violence, which began in April 2014 when Nkurunziza decided to extend his rule by running for a controversial third term. Since then, clashes between loyalists and the opposition have turned increasingly violent, despite attempts by regional leaders to broker a political solution.
Ban ki-Moon's visit came as Burundi's government appeared to soften its position towards its opponents, agreeing to receive a delegation of African heads of state expected later this week and cancelling international arrest warrants against several exiled opposition leaders.
The African Union is sending South African President, Jacob Zuma to Bujumbura on 25 February together with the leaders of Mauritania, Senegal, Gabon and Ethiopia to assist with the political crisis in that country.
More than 240,000 people have fled the country since the start of the crisis while thousands more have been arrested and the security forces repeatedly accused of extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations. The UN has warned that Burundi risks a repeat of the 1993-2005 civil war in which an estimated 300,000 people died.
The government of neighbouring Rwanda, which is sheltering about 75,000 Burundians, meanwhile confirmed it is planning to relocate the refugees to other countries, but insisted it would respect its obligations under international law. Rwanda's relocation plan comes amid accusations that Kigali is meddling in Burundi's affairs.
Burundi has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing rebels intent on overthrowing the government in Bujumbura. Kigali has fiercely denied the accusations.
(Source: Reuters, FRANCE 24 and AFP)