Uganda minister in Burundi for crisis mediation

Pierre Nkurunziza

Pierre Nkurunziza

Ugandan-led regional efforts to resolve Burundi’s violent political crisis continued Thursday with the country’s defence minister standing in for President Yoweri Museveni as mediator.

Regional heads of state appointed Museveni mediator last week in the hope of ending months of crisis sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a controversial third term in elections due on July 21.

Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga arrived in the capital Bujumbura on Thursday, a day after Museveni left saying he had secured a commitment from government, opposition and civil society to negotiate “without interruption”.

Delegates were due to begin talks on Thursday evening.

Opposition leader Agathon Rwasa has said no subject would be “taboo” but Pascal Nyabenda, president of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, ruled out discussion of the key third-term issue.

The crisis began in late April when Nkurunziza announced his intention to stand for a third consecutive five-year term, despite a constitutional two-term limit, sparking months of turmoil and an attempted coup in mid-May.

Around 100 people have been killed in more than two months of protests, with over 158,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.

Gunfire and grenade explosions have hit the capital in recent nights, as has been common in the past weeks.

With the presidential election looming there are only a few days to seal a deal between the opposing sides. The government has so far rejected opposition demands for a further delay of the presidential vote.

Nkurunziza’s ruling party scored a widely-expected landslide win in parliamentary polls held on May 29, but these were boycotted by the opposition and condemned internationally as not free and fair.

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