January 6, 2016 was set as the tentative date for the continuation of talks in Arusha
UGANDA, the chief mediator in the Burundi talks, is unable to set a new date for the resumption of talks between the Burundi Government and the Opposition, owing to the intricacies involved in efforts to get the two warring factions to the negotiation table.
After the December 28 re-launch of the resumption of the peace talks between Pierre Nkurunziza's Government and the Opposition coalition, CNARED, by President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe, January 6, 2016 was set as the tentative date for the continuation of talks in Arusha, the seat of the East African Community in Tanzania.
But the two parties didn't show up in Arusha, with the Government insisting it will 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.
Uganda's defense 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 are 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 round table,".
Kiyonga explained that he held a consultative meeting with the chairperson of the East African Community (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 January 6.
Mahiga and Chikoti are foreign ministers in the Governments of Tanzania and Angola respectively. Angola currently chairs the ICGLR. Re-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.
The Burundian Government, which is being accused of taking its opponents out of their homes and killing them on the streets of Bujumbura at night, has also ruled out talking with anyone implicated in the attempted coup last May.
Some of the people implicated in the botched armed takeover of Government have allegedly been killed while others have been jailed. Some have fled the country.
"The Government of Burundi is saying it will not talk to anyone who was involved in an attempted coup, but we are saying these people should be treated as innocent in the interest of peace talks," Kiyonga said.
The 54-member AU gave Burundi a four-day deadline on December 17 to accept a 5,000-strong force to halt months of violence. However, Nkurunziza on December 30 threatened to fight the proposed AU peacekeepers if they set foot on Burundian soil, defying intense global pressure to accept the force. But the force hasn't been deployed.
"Shooting at the African Union peacekeepers would be a big mistake. We are all members of AU and we are bound by its resolutions. If one is not satisfied with AU's decision, they can challenge it through proper channels like through the AU summit," Kiyonga said.
The minister added that the recently inaugurated African standby force can intervene in any conflict on the continent to halt bloodbaths as long as it is backed by the AU resolution.