UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
BURUNDI: Nyerere slams government as talks end in stalemate
NAIROBI, 19 July (IRIN) - The current round of the Arusha peace talks ended in disarray on Saturday, with the facilitator, ex-Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, lashing out at the Burundi government.
According to the Hirondelle news agency, he accused the government of "rejecting" all his suggestions. "I don't want someone to say that I'm responsible for the stalemate," he told the closing session. "I would be less than honest if I did not express deep dissatisfaction about the work that has been done in the last two weeks," he told the delegates. "The atmosphere of negotiations has been completely soured." He said using the "excuse" of violence to stop negotiations was "not responsible". The talks were suspended for a day on 6 July when President Pierre Buyoya's UPRONA party declared a 24-hour mourning period for the victims of recent violence in Burundi.
A constant stumbling block to the peace talks has been the perceived opposition of the Nyerere Foundation to include rebel faction leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye in the Arusha process. Both Ndayikengurukiye, who leads the Conseil National pour la defense de la democratie-Forces de defense pour la democratie (CNDD-FDD) faction, and the government have persistently called for CNDD-FDD's inclusion.
Nyerere rejected accusations that he had not invited Ndayikengurukiye, but said there were conditions attached to his participation. He could not come as CNDD representative unless he "replaced" Leonard Nyangoma as CNDD faction leader, or reconciled with him. Otherwise he "could form his own party". CNDD-FDD argue that they are already a separate party to Nyangoma's CNDD. "I have been trying to facilitate his [Jean-Bosco] coming here, but all the suggestions have been rejected...by the government of Burundi," Nyerere added.
Burundi government officials told IRIN on Monday the government was considering its reply to Nyerere's remarks.
The facilitator announced that the next round of talks would take place in Arusha on 6 September. "If we can get the necessary financing I want to allow all the time we need until we complete the negotiations," he said. "We have been too leisurely in these negotiations." Hirondelle news agency said he refused to allow Burundi's Peace Process Minister Ambroise Niyonsaba to speak, and walked out of the room.
In the course of the negotiations, Hirondelle reported Nyerere as declaring "he did not have the experience to lead the negotiations, but that his experience did equip him to organise fighters from the refugee camps who wanted to liberate their country". Niyonsaba is quoted as saying Nyerere wanted to exert more pressure on the government, than on the other negotiating sides. The government has long accused Tanzania of harbouring rebels in the refugee camps bordering Burundi.
The two weeks of talks have been characterised by rising tension among the 18 negotiating sides, with accusations and counter-accusations. Independent observers at the talks told IRIN the facilitators had "done little" to bring the focus back to the quest for peace. "The process is focused on the process itself," one observer said.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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