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Burundi govt won't join crisis talks unless consulted

2 min 13Approximate reading time

Burundi's government on Wednesday refused to participate in stalled talks to end months of political crisis unless it was first consulted on who else was taking part.

As Washington urged the authorities to defuse a year-long crisis, a presidential statement, broadcast on national radio and monitored in Nairobi, issued a set of conditions to the government joining the so-called Burundi "dialogue".

"The Burundi government must be consulted (as) we must be in agreement on the persons who should be invited, the dates and the place," said Willy Nyamitwe, communications officer for the presidency.

The authorities also were awaiting "an official invitation", he added.

He later told AFP the government had just received its invite to fresh crisis talks Monday and was "analysing" it. "It will reply at any moment through the required channels," he said.

Burundi has been in political strife for a year, with 270,000 people fleeing into exile and more than 500 killed.

A regionally-mediated dialogue between all Burundians is being pushed by the international community as the best way to avoid civil war and former Tanzania president Benjamin Mkapa last weekend announced new talks from May 2 to 6 in Arusha.

The resumption of the dialogue was welcomed by the US state department in a statement late Tuesday "as the best means to restoring peace and stability to Burundi."

(We) "strongly urge all stakeholders to fully participate without preconditions or red lines," it said.

"The sooner this crisis is resolved, the sooner we can help Burundi realise greater development and prosperity."

- Human rights jeopardised -

But the government has repeatedly refused to sit at the same table as the main umbrella opposition group CNARED, including domestic and exiled leaders, accusing them of fomenting trouble.

Nyamitwe said on radio that "those who have attacked the lives of citizens, who hoped to overthrow institutions that were democratically elected, and others who are involved in armed insurrection in our country, cannot be summoned to this dialogue."

CNARED meanwhile said it was prepared to take part in Monday's talks in Arusha, though it had not yet received an official invitation.

The government ought to be aware that "it's not part of the mediation but is a party to the conflict, just like CNARED," said its communications officer Jeremie Minani.

"It's not up to them to draw up the list of participants or to set the agenda for the talks."

Burundi's current troubles began after President Pierre Annunziata's controversial decision last April to run for a third term, a vote he won amid opposition boycotts in July.

The decision was followed by a failed coup and almost daily protests that have become increasingly violent.

In a statement Wednesday, Amnesty International said the human rights situation in the country continues to deteriorate, and that it remains unclear who is to blame for violence.

This week a top general was gunned down in Burundi with his wife while dropping off their daughter at school, as the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced its prosecutors were launching a preliminary probe into a litany of atrocities.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein condemned Wednesday the increasing number of attacks against high-level officials in Burundi.

"They must be properly investigated and the killers must be arrested and brought before the law," he said.

The ICC's chief prosecutor said her office had reviewed reports "detailing acts of killing, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as cases of enforced disappearances".

"All these acts appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC," said Fatou Bensouda.

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