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Heavily guarded Zuma in Burundi peace drive

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A delegation of five African heads of state arrived in Bujumbura yesterday at the start of a two-day visit to push for talks to end Burundi’s deep political crisis.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was in Burundi a few days ago as part of growing international efforts to bring an end to 10 months of deadly turmoil in the central African country.

The AU agreed to send the delegation – headed by President Jacob Zuma, and including the leaders of Ethiopia, Gabon, Mauritania and Senegal – during its January summit, when Burundi aggressively rejected a plan to deploy 5000 peacekeepers to the country.

Zuma arrived yesterday with a bodyguard of more than 50 soldiers and at least six machine-gun-mounted army trucks for his 10-minute drive to the city centre.

Ban, on his first visit since the crisis erupted, met President Pierre Nkurunziza on Tuesday and said he had won a guarantee that “inclusive dialogue” would begin between the government and its opponents.

But the main umbrella opposition group, CNARED, whose leaders are in exile, dismissed it as a “false opening”, saying Nkurunziza did not want real negotiations that would bring peace.

The opposition was angered by the president’s apparent attempt to choose who should participate when he said the dialogue would include all Burundians “except those engaged in acts of destabilisation”.

Previous talks have failed, with the Burundian government refusing to sit down with some of its opponents, whom it accuses of involvement in a failed coup in May, and months of violence including grenade and rocket attacks.

“The heads of state are coming to consult the government and other stakeholders on the revival of an inclusive dialogue,” said an African diplomat in Bujumbura who did not want to be named.

“The issue of deploying a peacekeeping force in Burundi is not on the agenda,” the diplomat added.

CNARED chairman Leonard Nyangoma welcomed the delegation’s visit but held out little hope of a breakthrough.

“Nkurunziza is a die-hard, and without strong pressure and real sanctions he will never agree to the meaningful negotiations that are the only way out of this crisis,” he said.

[Source: Times Live]
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