Uganda hosts new Burundi peace talks Talks off to a rocky start as government refuses to engage with key opposition figures

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

ENTEBBE, Uganda (AA) – Burundi’s government has demanded the withdrawal of key opposition figures if peace talks, restarted in Uganda on Monday, are to continue.

First deputy chairman of the country’s ruling CNDD-FDDD party, Victor Burikukiye, speaking in Entebbe today said: “I would like to mention that if those who participated in the [May 2015] coup are here, we shall not continue with the talks.”

Uganda is hosting a new round of Burundi peace talks in an attempt to restart a faltering peace process in the East African country.

However, the Burundian government has from the start refused to hold talks with the CNARED, a key opposition group that it has branded a terrorist organization, accusing it of staging a failed coup in May.

However, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni disagreed, telling the government: “This is something you should discuss carefully; these may be criminals but, for the sake of peace, let’s give them immunity.”

Since April this year, Burundi has been plunged into an increasingly severe political and security crisis as President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office.

He survived a coup attempt in May, and secured a third term in disputed elections in July.

The worst violence erupted on the Dec. 11 when 87 people were killed in clashes in the capital, Bujumbura.

Over 218,000 Burundians are now refugees in neighboring countries within the East African region.

Urging the Burundian government to focus on substance, Museveni stressed that: “We must encourage truth and reconciliation… Don’t squander this chance by going into [pre-conditions].”

Nyangoma Leonard, the CNARED chairman who is leading the opposition at the launch of the talks, said they were “looking forward to a serious negotiation”.

Welcoming the plan by the African Union to deploy 5,000 peace keepers to Burundi, Nyangoma said his group was ready to discuss “all issues in the interest of the people and build institutions that are respected by the leaders”.

Jamal Benomar, a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said only “genuine and inclusive dialogue” would deliver a solution

EU special envoy Koen Vervaeke described the talks as a first step to ending violence and an important step in generating a momentum of positive engagement among the parties.

President Museveni warned the parties over political “mismanagement” of politics, saying an exclusive pursuit of power could make them “an enemy of your country, future and your people”.

The talks will reconvene on the Jan. 6 in Arusha, Tanzania.

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