- Former President Benjamin Mkapa maintains the Inter-Burundi Dialogue he facilitated was undermined by hardliners on both sides; the government and the opposition in exile
Arusha. Former President Benjamin Mkapa is reported to be overly dismayed by the apparent failure of the recently concluded mediation process in Burundi, The Citizen can reveal.
He blamed the Burundi government for lack of seriousness on the dialogue brokered by the East African Community (EAC) and the exiled opposition for their hard-line position.
“I was deeply disappointed by the decision of Burundi government, the ruling party and allied parties not to attend the fifth session,” he said in a report he presented to the EAC summit on February 1st in Arusha. The fifth and last session of Inter-Burundi Dialogue, which had dragged on for the last three years, was held at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha.
Mr Mkapa, who was the Facilitator of the dialogue described the absence of officials from the Burundi government to the October talks, as a blow to the EAC-brokered mediation process.
“This was a missed opportunity for the parties to arrive at a consensual agreement on the way forward”, he blankly told the leaders who had assembled during the twice postpponed summit.
The respected statesman said his facilitation team was deeply concerned on the prevailing political situation in Burundi especially as the country prepares for the general elections next year.
Representatives of the Burundi government as well as those from the ruling CNDD-FDD ruling party were conspicuously absent at the Ngurdoto negotiations.
Authorities in Bujumbura maintained they had two important anniversaries of the slain nation founders, Louis Rwagasore and Melcior Ndadaye, in October and could not afford sending key officials to Arusha.
“The lack of agreement following the fifth dialogue session is also a matter of concern,” Mr Mkapa warned, he told the EAC heads of state, according to his report obtained by The Citizen.
Mkapa’s facilitation team was also not amused by Burundi government’s decision to conduct internal dialogue process in parallel to that of the EAC, which, it said, presented the latter with a fait accompli.
Burundi government also went ahead to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution and review of elements of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation for Burundi.
On the hard-line positions, the Mkapa team noted that the Bujumbura authorities, in fact, called for the “repatriation of the process” in favour of internal dialogue.
On the other hand, those within the external opposition had little trust with the EAC process and wanted more United Nations and the African Union involvement.
He further attributed little success seen in Inter-Burundi Dialogue to lack of a dedicated EAC summit on the crisis in Burundi as has been repeatedly suggested by President Pierre Nkurunziza.
“’The EAC Summit at that level may also wish to demonstrate collective leadership, unity of purpose and coherence to prevent the resurgence of violence in Burundi”, he said in his report.
Last week there were reports awash in the social media that Mr Mkapa has resigned as the Facilitator of Inter Burundi Dialogue.
But both the EAC secretariat and the Burundi Liason Mission to the EAC denied this, saying the former president’s tenure had simply ended after presenting his report to the EAC leaders.
“Mkapa has not resigned as the facilitator. He has completed his assignment as facilitator of the mediation process,” stressed Amos Gerson Ndimurwanko, the Counsellor at Burundi mission in Arusha.
The EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko while reading the communique confirmed the regional leaders, indeed, received Mr Mkapa’s report.
The communique was not categorical of what would follow but hinted the regional leaders “would consult further on the Inter-Burundi Dialogue process”.