BUJUMBURA. — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza had promised to engage in “inclusive dialogue” with the opposition to end the central African country’s months-long political crisis.
Ban made the comments after holding talks with Burundi’s leader in the capital, Bujumbura, in a bid to bring fresh impetus to stalled efforts to resolve a crisis that has left more than 400 people dead.
The UN secretary-general, who also met with opposition leaders, said both sides had “promised that they will engage in inclusive dialogue” to end the violence, which began in April when Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term.
Since then, clashes between loyalists and the opposition have turned increasingly violent, despite attempts by regional leaders to broker a political solution.
Hours before the UN chief’s arrival on Monday at least two people were killed and nine hurt in two separate grenade attacks in the capital by assailants on motorbikes, the latest in a string of such attacks, the city’s Mayor Freddy Mbonimpa said.
Mbonimpa denounced the attacks as a “terrorist act targeting peaceful citizens”.
“The capital had been calm for several days, but these terrorists as usual launch their criminal operations to show they’re here just when Burundi is expecting an important guest,” the mayor added.
In a separate incident, two people were killed and two injured Sunday night in the commune of Gisozi southeast of Bujumbura in an attack by “armed criminals”, said the local governor, Jean-Marie Nyakarerwa.
Ban’s visit came as Burundi’s government appeared to soften its position towards its opponents, agreeing to receive a delegation of African heads of state expected later this week and cancelling international arrest warrants against several exiled opposition leaders.
France meanwhile proposed at the United Nations that a UN police force be deployed in Burundi to help quell the violence, according to a draft text obtained by AFP on Monday.
France hopes the statement will be adopted before a group of African presidents, including South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, travels to Burundi on Thursday for talks with President Nkurunziza.
“We want to seize upon this convergence of international efforts to break the cycle and try to generate positive movement in Burundi,” said French Ambassador François Delattre.
More than 240 000 people have fled the country since the start of the crisis, while thousands more have been arrested and the security forces repeatedly accused of extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations.
The UN has warned Burundi risks a repeat of the 1993-2005 civil war in which an estimated 300 000 people died.
The government of neighbouring Rwanda, which is sheltering some 75 000 Burundians, meanwhile confirmed it is planning to relocate the refugees to other countries, but insisted it would respect its obligations under international law.
Rwanda’s relocation plan comes amid accusations that Kigali is meddling in Burundi’s affairs.
Burundi has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing rebels intent on overthrowing the government in Bujumbura. Kigali has fiercely denied the accusations. — France24/AFP.