Bujumbura. Warring parties in the bloody Burundi conflict start meeting here this morning for the third round of Inter-Burundi Dialogue which analysts are doubtful if it would be attended by some of the hardline opposition politicians who have fled the country.
The Facilitator of the Dialogue former president Benjamin Mkapa was expected here last night for the reconciliation talks taking place for the first time at home at a time the strife-torn country has seen relative peace in sharp contrast with the clashes which claimed over 400 lives since April last year.
Security has been tightened in Bujumbura’s central business district and around the major hotels and public buildings ahead of the talks which are organized by the East African Community (EAC) with the support of an array of development partners.
Also involved in the process is the International Conference of Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional body based here and which was established over a decade ago to address political conflicts in various flashpoints in the vast region where armed groups are fighting from forest hideouts.
Until yesterday there was no official statement from the authorities on whether the opposition groups which fled Burundi at the height of turmoil last year would attend the talks. However, sources had it those based at home met to strategise on how to force the government bow down its hard line position on its political rivals..
Ordinary Burundis say the country has healed considerably from the mass protests and resultant clashes between the security forces and the protesters agitating for an end to President Nkurunziza’s administration on ground his third term tenure was against the country’s Constitution. The government has rubbished the claims.
Residents of the sea-side Bujumbura city say they were now relieved to go about their business through out the day until late into the night. They are, however, still fearful of isolated attacks, targeting some individuals.
The recent such attack on the city suburbs targeted Willy Nyamitwe, an aid to President Nkurunziza. That was as late as last week.He sustained gun wounds while one of his body guards was killed.
Hundreds of people have lost lives due to what observers say were politically-motivated killings while over 270,000 have fled to Tanzania and Rwanda as refugees. Many opposition politicians are in exile within EA or abroad.
Several senior military and pro-government officials have been eliminated that way as was the outspoken former Burundi member of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) Ms Hafsa Mossi who was gunned down near the city centre on July 13th as the second phase of Inter-Burundi Dialogue was underway in Arusha.
It could not be established if Mr. Mkapa would involve the former presidents of Burundi, Major General Pierre Buyoya, Domicien Ndaizeye and Sylvester Ntibantunganya, in the mediation process. They reside in the capital city and command some influence in the national affairs.
Nine political parties, which took part in last year’s controversial elections, took part in the May talks while the groups under a coalition known as CNARED boycotted. Reports had it that most of the coalition’s leaders are operating from outside the country.
The EAC Council of Ministers, the policy organ of the Community, recently requested all stakeholders in the Burundi conflict to take the on-going mediation efforts seriously so that peace, security and stability can be restored in the country “in the shortest possible time”.
Although statistics are not available, the development partners are reported to have scaled down their support to EAC over the Burundi crisis. One of them, France, early this week has called on all parties in the Inter-Burundi Dialogue to engage constructively and consensually in the forthcoming consultations starting today.
“The only a political solution would enable Burundi to achieve a peaceful exit from the crisis.“We reiterate our full support for the continuation of sessions on Inter-Burundi Dialogue, within the framework of the mandate given to it by the East African Community,” said the French ambassador to Tanzania Ms Malika Berak in a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Mkapa disclosed that a roadmap for the Burundi Dialogue process was developed and presented to the Mediator President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on Friday.