Kikwete now moves to defuse Burundi crisis

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H.E Jakaya Kikwete

President Jakaya Kikwete has sent a fact-finding mission to Burundi, which is caught up in a crisis over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office.

The team is expected to prepare a report that will direct the East African Community Summit of Heads of State on how to address the insecurity in that country.

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe will lead a team of foreign affairs officials from other EAC member states in the fact-finding mission. The mission is heading to Burundi amid protests that have rocked the country, with the death toll rising to 12 by Monday. Mr Membe leaves today, according to the head of the government’s communication unit in the Foreign Affairs and International Affairs ministry, Ms Mindi Kasiga. The mission should be done with by the end of this week.

Speaking in New York on Monday, President Kikwete, who is also the EAC Summit chairman, told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that decisive action would depend on the findings of the mission, which starts its work today. “But whatever the case, the basic solution to the problems which Burundi is going through now lies with Burundians,” he said. “They have a constitution and law which should be followed in order to end this problem. Using force will not help them much.”

The UN secretary general had asked President Kikwete to shed light on what is being done to help Burundi deal with the crisis. This is the first tangible action the EAC has taken since chaos broke out in Burundi. Several people have died, hundred others are injured and property has been destroyed in clashes between police and demonstrators opposed to a decision to give President Pierre Nkurunziza an opportunity to run for the presidency for the third time.

Said Ms Kasiga: “The fact finding mission will do its job for a day in Burundi. While in Bujumbura, it will meet various stakeholders and compile a report from facts gathered in Bujumbura which will guide the EAC leaders in an extraordinary summit President Kikwete will host.”

Some 1,852 Burundians seeking refuge arrived in Kigoma last week following political instability in their country due to President Nkurunziza’s move to seek a third term.

According to a statement by Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson Isaac Nantanga, the Burundian refugees entered Tanzania through Kigaye, Sekeoya, Kakonko, Kosovo, Kagunga and Kibuye villages.

After verification with immigration officers in the region, 1,252 among them have been moved to Nyarugusu Camp in Kasulu District as the rest of the refugees are interrogated before they are sent on to refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the Burundi Constitutional Court on Monday approved the nomination of Mr Nkurunziza as the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s candidate in next month’s presidential election. The court made the decision Monday, a day after four of its members fled to neighbouring Rwanda fearing for their safety. “We are worried about our security,” said one of the Constitutional Court judges. “That is why I decided to leave the country.”

The court ruled that President Nkurunziza was eligible for a third term since he has been elected only once through universal suffrage.

Mr Nkurunziza rose to power in 2005 after being elected by parliament and went on to win a second term five years later by popular vote.

President Nkurunziza’s tenure has been dogged by controversy over the interpretation of the constitution. While some parties say the President has had his maximum two terms, his supporters insist the first five years did not count under the law.

The 2000 Arusha Accord, which ended the protracted Burundi civil war and culminated in Mr Nkurunziza’s rise to power, is categorical that no one person should be president for more than 10 years.

Source: The Citizen

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