Mkapa role in Burundi

Friday February 8 2019


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Arusha. While reports say that former President Benjamin Mkapa has resigned as mediator for the Inter-Burundi Dialogue for failure by the East African Community (EAC) to give him the necessary cooperation, the latter maintains that Mr Mkapa has simply completed his tenure.

The Inter-Burundi Dialogue has dragged on for three years and during the last meeting, which was held in Arusha last October, the Burundi government did not send its representatives.

Briefing the 15-member United Nations Security Council on the political, security and humanitarian developments in Burundi in November last year, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the country, Mr Michel Kafando, noted that the government of Burundi and the main political parties have opted not to attend the fifth session of the inter-Burundian Dialogue led by the East African Community (EAC) and mediated by former President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania.

He said those discussions have not yet led to a political agreement among the parties, especially in relation to the critical elections planned for 2020.

Responding to reports that Mr Mkapa has quit, the Burundi consulate in Arusha said the former Tanzanian head of state was simply departing from the scene after completion of the task bestowed on him by regional leaders nearly four years ago.

“Mkapa has not resigned as the facilitator. He has completed his assignment as facilitator of the mediation process,” stressed Amos Gerson Ndimurwanko, the Counsellor at Burundi embassy in Arusha.

He said reports running in the social media that Mkapa has quit as the mediator of the Burundi dialogue were not true.

“His work is over and he has submitted his report to the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State as was assigned,” he told The Citizen. Reports in social media have been awash that the former president has stepped down from the mediation process, alleging little cooperation from some stakeholders, including the EAC and the Burundi government.

But, Mr Ndimurwanko, who heads Burundi Liason Office to EAC, insisted the terms of reference were to present a comprehensive report on how to reconcile warring parties in Burundi to the EAC leaders for action.

He said Mr Mkapa submitted his report to the EAC leaders in Arusha on Friday during the closed session of the summit, which preceded the plenary session at the Simba Hall of the Arusha International Conference Centre (AICC).

The report was presented to presidents John Magufuli, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who took over as the new EAC chair, and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi was represented by his first vice president Gaston Sindimwo while the South Sudan delegation was led by the minister of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, Mr Paul Akec. After presenting his report, Mr Mkapa left the AICC. He did not accompany the presidents into the Simba Hall for the plenary session.

EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko, while reading the communique, confirmed that the regional leaders, indeed, received Mr Mkapa’s report.

The communique was not categorical of what would follow but hinted the regional leaders “would consult further on the Inter-Burundi Dialogue process”.

An official of the EAC Secretariat also refuted the reports, saying Mr Mkapa’s tenure as the facilitator of Inter-Burundi Dialogue may have ended months ago

He said the former head of state was to hand over his report on Burundi to the EAC summit, which aborted on November 30 and December 27, last year.

Inter-Burundi Dialogue was initiated by the EAC following the chaos, including a coup attempt, which rocked the country from 2015 following President Nkurunziza’s extension of his tenure.

The fifth and last round of the mediation talks were held at the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha on October 28, last year.

At the end of the week-long negotiations, the former president said his task would end after handing over the report on Burundi peace talks to the EAC leaders.