Burundi Pledges to Release 2,000 Prisoners, Hold Talks With Opposition

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Burundi has agreed to release 2,000 prisoners and hold talks with opposition groups, following a visit from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban met with Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza in the capital, Bujumbura, on Tuesday to discuss the country’s national security crisis that has run on for more than 10 months. The UN official said Burundi’s promise marks “an encouraging step” towards resolving the country’s bitter conflict.

 

‘An encouraging step’

Nkurunziza’s government has so far been defiant against calls from the international community to negotiate. The president recently rebuffed a proposal from the AU to deploy peacekeeper troops into the country, saying it would be considered an invasion and dealt with as an act of war.

Nkurunziza and Ban spoke to the press on Tuesday to announce the president’s intentions following their meeting. Nkurunziza told reporters he is now ready to talk with his opponents and urged Ban to address his claims that Rwanda is provoking the fragile situation in Burundi.

Rwanda has been accused of recruiting and training Burundi refugees at its camps and sending them back into Burundi to fight against Nkurunziza’s government.

 

Three killed hours before Ban visit

The UN Secretary-General arrived in Burundi just hours after three people were killed in gun and grenade attacks. Gunmen killed two people late on Sunday when they opened fire on a bar, 30 miles east of Bujumbura. Another person died and one was injured in a grenade attack at Bujumbura market on Monday morning.

No groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks but the government says there are three prominent rebel groups fuelling violence in the country. Two of these are believed to be made up of renegade soldiers, after the country’s military split into rival factions.

The UN is under pressure to calm the situation in Burundi as fears grow that the ethnic nature of its conflict could spark similar events to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. So far 400 people are calculated to have been killed since violence broke out in April last year.

 

Featured image:
By Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org)/Eric Miller, mailto:emiller@iafrica.com emiller@iafrica.com) – Pierre Nkurunziza – World Economic Forum on Africa 2008, CC BY-SA 2.0