Bujumbura - Friday marked the end of the two weeks of the fourth round of inter-Burundian dialogue taking place in Arusha, Tanzania, to address the security and political crisis in Burundi, with no end in sight to an agreement on the way forward.
The talks, which has been deemed “the last” by facilitator Benjamin Mkapa, the former Tanzania head of state, has been held in absence of opposition and civil society leaders in exile, with many observers deeming it as a "failure".
A disappointed Mkapa accused the different delegations of intransigence. “Because of parties' inability to move beyond their positional silos, we decided that there will be no binding document out of this session”, declared Mkapa. “The summary of the proceedings will be submitted to the Mediator Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the EAC Heads of States summit.”
On Friday, journalists were not allowed to cover the session's closing ceremonies, with one saying: "We have been escorted by Tanzanian police agents up to five kilometres far from the place where the dialogue was taking place."
At the beginning of the current session, Mkapa had planned on an agreement that could be signed by all the delegates in front of the East African Community Heads of States at the end of the session. However, two days ago the 79-year-old came to realise that the positions of the participants were “irreconcilable”, with some even refusing to sit at the same table with others.
Opposition participants want the current process of revising the Burundian constitution to stop, while they also insisted that the Arusha peace agreement also cannot be touched.
They also pleaded in favour of the creation of a UN body that could be in charge of electoral disputes and the deployment of foreign troops in Burundi to supervise the 2020 elections.
However, the governmental delegation and its allies did not want to hear the opposition proposal. “We are not here to talk about constitutional review. This is the matter of the national sovereignty,” declared Therence Ntahiraja who headed the delegation.
However, according to Ntahiraja, the government was ready for some concessions. “The government is committed to respecting human rights and facilitating the return of political refugees, especially those who are not wanted.”
The leaders of the main opposition coalition, CNARED, and the activists from the main civil society organisations all in exile boycotted the session, saying it was “not inclusive”.
Burundi has been going through security and political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for the third term in office in 2015.
According to UN and NGO reports, between 500 and 2 000 Burundians have been killed and another 400 000 forced to flee to the neighbouring countries. These reports also record hundreds of forced disappearances, torture acts and arbitrary arrests.
One month ago, the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into the crimes committed in Burundi since 2015.