East African leaders to hold summit on Burundi
African leaders will meet again on Sunday to discuss the crisis in Burundi as violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters continue and the opposition has boycotted talks to resolve the stand-off.
Rights groups say at least 20 people have been killed by police since protests erupted in late April against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office. An opposition leader was killed on Saturday.
Police fired towards protesters and gunfire was heard in several parts of the capital Bujumbura on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said. Many roads are blocked and businesses closed.
The Reuters witness saw a dead body in the flashpoint district of Cibitoke in the early evening, when gunfire was heard in the area, but no details on the incident were immediately available.
Members of the military attempted a coup on May 13 while Nkurunziza was abroad at the last East African Community (EAC) summit, aimed at ending the row over his plan to stand again. The putsch failed but protests have rumbled on.
The East African leaders first held a summit in Tanzania on May 13 aimed at breaking the political deadlock in Burundi and ensuring the country holds peaceful elections.
“We have agreed to meet … to discuss how to help our brothers and sisters in Burundi to hold successful elections and ensure that their nation is united, peaceful and secure without any unnecessary conflicts,” Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who chairs the East African Community (EAC) common market, said in a statement.
The EAC heads of state are from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
The EAC said on Twitter late on Monday that the summit would be held in Dar es Salaam with ministers meeting on Saturday. Nkurunziza’s office said it was unclear if the president would attend.
“It’s too soon to know, but Burundi will be represented, that is for sure,” said presidential spokes-person Gervais Abayeho.
Nkurunziza’s decision to try for a third term unleashed Burundi’s worst political crisis since a civil war ended in 2005. Many people fear the violence could lead to renewed ethnic bloodletting between the Hutu and Tutsi communities.
Some 800,000 people were killed in a 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, which has a similar ethnic make-up. The current unrest has prompted around 70,000 Burundians to flee abroad, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
Critics say Nkurunziza’s bid violates the constitution. The president’s supporters disagree, and say a constitutional court ruling allows him to run.
The presidency on Tuesday said Nkurunziza had signed a decree on May 21 for the elections to be financed by increasing the country’s deficit and trimming the budgets of the education, health and seven other ministries.
About $28 million is needed to fund the elections, the document states. Domestic debt will be increased by 28 billion francs, while 14 billion francs will be raised from ministry savings. Another one billion should be saved from what the document calls “other products”.—Reuters
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